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Jordan’s Apparel Sector to Hire 12,000 Bangladeshi Workers

Bangladeshi garment workers whose livelihoods have been compromised due to this year’s supply-chain shutdowns may soon see new opportunities take shape abroad.

Jordanian apparel factories are poised to take on 12,000 new workers from Bangladesh over the course of 2021, Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen told U.K. outlet The Daily Star last week. The recruitment effort will be processed through state-owned recruiting agency Bangladesh Overseas Employment and Services Ltd. (BOESL)—and that the organization will also be taking on the travel costs associated with worker relocation.

Approximately 90,000 Bangladeshis currently work in Jordan—and well over half are employed in the apparel sector, Saudi Arabia’s Arab News reported. According to insights from the Bangladeshi Embassy, 53,000 citizens of Bangladesh work in Jordanian garment factories.

Nahid Sobhan, Bangladesh’s ambassador to Jordan, told Arab News that the effort would be fully funded and driven by the private sector, adding that “several factories are interested in bringing Bangladeshi skilled workforces into the country.” Those factories are required to have government clearance for their new workforces, and that authorization has recently come through.

The first wave of workers from Bangladesh will be able to enter Jordan as soon as a Jordanian delegation visits the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka to finalize the process, she said Saturday, adding that the meeting is expected to take place “soon.”

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Sobhan told the outlet that she had been working with Jordan’s industry stakeholders in recent months to drum up opportunities for Bangladeshi workers, many of whom lost their jobs due to Covid-related supply chain disruptions. Fashion brands and retailers across the globe frantically canceled garment orders from their suppliers this spring as consumers fretted over the state of the economy and pulled back on spending. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) estimated that the country would see an “irrecoverable loss” of $5 billion by the end of 2020.

London’s Business & Human Rights Resource Centre conducted a survey of 34 fashion brands this fall, asking them to respond to questions about garment workers’ rights during the pandemic. Twenty-nine respondents said they had recorded profits since the Covid crisis began, and of that cohort, nine still declined to commit to paying for their full orders.

“Job opportunities have been reduced during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic,” Sobhan said. “In this context, recently I started engaging with both the private sector and the government in Jordan for opening new recruitments.”

“These new jobs are the outcome of those efforts and certainly we shall continue our work to explore more avenues,” she added.

There’s other evidence that the country’s embattled apparel supply chain could see bright spots in the coming months. In August, China reduced tariffs on nearly all products from Bangladesh, opening up new opportunities for apparel imports.

At October’s Indo-Pacific Business Forum, hosted by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced the signing of a new Memorandum of Understanding by American industry stakeholders to provide relief to female workers in Bangladesh and other regions.

Retailers like Gap Inc., Carter’s, Global Brands Group, Levi Strauss & Co., Nike, Tapestry, Target, VF Corp. and Walmart, along with trade associations including the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA), the National Retail Federation (NRF), the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the U.S. Fashion Industry Association, agreed to collaborate with local organizations to build resilience across supply chains, protect the rights and welfare of workers and empower women over the course of the coming year.