From Unacceptable Risks to Shared Prosperity: Construction in Jordan & Lebanon

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Key Messages

  • 36 of 38 companies failed to reply to the survey, in a ‘shocking lack of engagement’;
  • Just 7 of 38 companies have public human rights policies, and none of these reported having human rights policies that specifically address refugees and migrants;
  • Risks for migrant workers include discrimination, late and non-payment of wages, solicitation of recruitment fees and extortionate sponsorship, restrictions on freedom of association, limitations on access to remedy, and dangerous violations of occupational safety and health standards;
  • It falls on the shoulders of all stakeholders, especially those financing projects, to ensure they create jobs that are decent and rights-respecting. Companies working in Jordan and Lebanon should start by putting in place publicly-available human rights policies, whilst International Financial Institutions should reinforce this by requiring companies to adopt and disclose policies on human rights due diligence and remedy.

Executive Summary

The construction sector in Jordan and Lebanon could be a powerful motor for employment, development, and shared prosperity in a region wracked by the impact of conflict in Syria. Tragically, there is widespread evidence that the sector is characterised by systemic abuse of workers, including refugees and migrants. Fatalities in the construction sector in Jordan are almost five times those in the United States; discrimination towards refugees and migrants is systematic; and workers of all nationalities face low pay, delayed wages, and long hours of unsafe work. Workers’ right to organise, or seek remedy for abuse, is generally supressed.

The profound inequality of power between employer and employee in this sector is alarming and dangerous, especially in light of the lack of enforcement of labour laws that might provide some redress. Nevertheless, there are reasons to be hopeful for improvements. The sector is partly dependent on heavy investment from International Finance Institutions (IFIs) and donor governments, all of which have standards and safeguards which need to be upheld; governments in the region are eager to attract this investment and may adjust their policies accordingly.

This study, the result of a survey of 38 companies, exposes a dearth of policies and practice to respect human rights in the construction sector in Jordan and Lebanon. It highlights the unacceptable risks that companies are running, and sets out recommendations for rapid transformation through increased respect for human rights.

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