Jordan: Covid-19 'rapid responses' strengthen social protection but side-line data protection


The Jordanian government implemented at least 8 different social protection measures in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The successful implementation of rapid response projects across social insurance, social assistance and refugee protection was an incredibly important means of protecting low-wage workers and communities facing vulnerable and precarious situations. Within 6 months of the first Covid-19 cases in Jordan, social security measures were put in place to support an estimated 960,000 workers, and approximately 550,000 households were supported through emergency cash-transfer programmes.

The Jordanian government worked with the UNHCR to implement emergency cash payments which included refugees as beneficiaries. This was a welcome development: expanding social protection to ensure refugees are included enables them to receive critical, and potentially life-saving, social support. The benefits of expedited disbursements during the pandemic are clear - households and individuals who need urgent relief should be able to access it as fast as possible. At the same time, to access the payments they were entitled to, people had to have their iris' scanned. This means that their biometric data was taken on the basis of questionable consent and uploaded onto databases that users know very little about.

More generally, the Jordanian government relied on a system called "Takaful", run by the National Aid Fund, to disburse emergency cash payments to families that were made vulnerable by Covid-19. "Takaful" was developed to have "an automated capability to update the administrative information on households and individual members, including data on formal working status and wages as well as other formal income (e.g. pensions) and assets, which are obtained automatically from the [national Social Security Corporation] and other public institutions."

Government databases which automatically share information across public institutions and are then relied on to make decisions about welfare entitlement must also have safeguards to ensure accuracy, rights of appeal and data security.

Source: The World Bank
Report: Jordan Emergency Cash Transfer COVID19 Response Project