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JLW report seeks to gauge psychological impact of pandemic-triggered lay-offs

By Bahaa Al Deen Al Nawas - Oct 28,2020 - Last updated at Oct 28,2020

AMMAN — As tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Jordan Labour Watch (JLW) has prepared a report on the psychological and social conditions of affected workers in different sectors.

In the report, a copy of which was sent to The Jordan Times, the JLW interviewed people who were laid off or are on the brink of losing jobs.

“The CEO called a sudden meeting, which my colleagues and I thought it was company-related, but the moment we stepped into the meeting room, it was obvious something was off,” the JLW quoted Aya, one of the individuals interviewed, as saying in the report.

In the meeting, Aya said the CEO told them the company was facing grave losses, prompting it to lay off employees in order to be able to continue, but Aya was not one of them.

“I was so relieved when I knew I get to keep my job, but my relief was temporary, because I always feel like it is a matter of time before I lose my job as well,” she said, noting that the matter makes her think continuously of her fate, especially because her laid-off former colleagues still have not found another job and are facing very difficult financial conditions.

Psychologist Hashem Fakhouri told the JLW that those still working sometimes face the same, if not greater, level of stress because they remain afraid of getting fired. Working in uncertain conditions with no clear future prompt them to continuously seek alternatives, he added.

Fakhouri described the work atmosphere among employees as “toxic” and “unstable” due to the fear, which causes competitiveness to increase as each employee tries their best to prove their worth to their superiors.

Employers and managers abuse this instability to push employees to work harder and produce more, he said, adding: “Some companies create this atmosphere on purpose, creating an unsafe environment and destroying friendships among employees to increase competitiveness”.

The report also quoted economist Husam Ayesh as saying that COVID-19 has caused an increase in unemployment rates, lay-offs, business closures, salary cuts and great damage to daily wage workers.

Ayesh said that lay-offs were rare in the past, but “the lack of job security has become the norm in the present”.

The Department of Statistics’ report on the second-quarter of 2020 revealed that unemployment rate reached 23 per cent, and is still expected to increase further due to the economic regression in the Kingdom, which is expected to stand at -5 per cent throughout this year.

Moreover, the Labour Ministry in mid-September received 52,000 complaints related to salary cuts and lay-offs, with the figures revealing that 8,287 workers have had their services ended between mid-March and until mid-September.

Out of the 8,287 workers, the figures showed that 3,121 were laid off legally, while the rest proved they were illegally fired with their complaints still under investigation, while others were referred to the judiciary, the report concludes.

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