An official website of the United States Government Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Egypt

Executive Summary

The Egyptian government continues to make progress on economic reforms, and while many challenges remain, Egypt’s investment climate is improving.  Thanks in part to the macroeconomic reforms it completed as part of a three-year, $12-billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) program from 2016 to 2019, Egypt was one of the fastest-growing emerging markets prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.  Egypt was also the only economy in the Middle East and North Africa to record positive economic growth in 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic and thanks in part to IMF assistance totaling $8 billion. Increased investor confidence and high real interest rates have attracted foreign portfolio investment and increased foreign reserves.  In 2021, the Government of Egypt (GoE) announced plans to launch a second round of economic reforms aimed at increasing the role of the private sector in the economy, addressing long-standing customs and trade policy challenges, modernizing its industrial base, and increasing exports. The GoE increasingly understands that attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) is key to addressing many of its economic challenges and has stated its intention to create a more conducive environment for FDI.  FDI inflows grew 11 percent between 2018 and 2019, from $8.1 to $9 billion, before falling 39 percent to $5.5 billion in 2020 amid sharp global declines in FDI due to the pandemic, according to data from the Central Bank of Egypt and the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). UNCTAD ranked Egypt as the top FDI destination in Africa between 2016 and 2020.

Egypt has passed several regulatory reform laws, including a new investment law in 2017; a “new company” law and a bankruptcy law in 2018; and a new customs law in 2020.  These laws aim to improve Egypt’s investment and business climate and help the economy realize its full potential.  The 2017 Investment Law is designed to attract new investment and provides a framework for the government to offer investors more incentives, consolidate investment-related rules, and streamline procedures.  The 2020 Customs Law is likewise meant to streamline aspects of import and export procedures, including through a single-window system, electronic payments, and expedited clearances for authorized companies.

Egypt will host the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 27, in November 2022. Recognizing the immense challenges the country faces from the impacts of climate change, government officials announced that the Cabinet will appropriate 30 percent of government investments in the 2022/2023 budget to green investments, up from 15 percent in the current fiscal year 2021/2022, and that by 2030 all new public sector investment spending would be green. The GoE accelerated plans to generate 42 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by five years, from 2035 to 2030, and is prioritizing investments in solar and wind power, green hydrogen, water desalination, sustainable transportation, electric vehicles, smart cities and grids, and sustainable construction materials. The government continues to seek investment in several mega projects, including the construction of smart cities, and to promote mineral extraction opportunities.  Egypt intends to capitalize on its location bridging the Middle East, Africa, and Europe to become a regional trade and investment gateway and energy hub and hopes to attract information and communications technology (ICT) sector investments for its digital transformation program.

Egypt is a party to more than 100 bilateral investment treaties, including with the United States.  It is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), and the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA).  In many sectors, there is no legal difference between foreign and domestic investors. Special requirements exist for foreign investment in certain sectors, such as upstream oil and gas as well as real estate, where joint ventures are required.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 117 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
Global Innovation Index 2021 94 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, on a
historical-cost basis
2020 USD 11,206 http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 USD 3,000 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

7. State-Owned Enterprises

State and military-owned companies compete directly with private companies in many sectors of the Egyptian economy. Although Public Sector Law 203 of 1991 states that state-owned enterprises (SOEs) should not receive preferential treatment from the government or be accorded exemptions from legal requirements applicable to private companies, in practice SOEs and military-owned companies enjoy significant advantages, including relief from regulatory requirements. IMF reports show that Egyptian SOEs have an average return on assets of just two percent and are only one-fourth as productive as private companies. Some 40 percent of SOEs are loss-making, despite access to subsidized capital and owning assets worth more than 50 percent of GDP. Profitable SOEs, meanwhile, tend to exploit a natural monopoly or hold exclusive rights to public assets. Few of Egypt’s 300 state-owned companies, 645 joint ventures, and 53 economic authorities release regular financial statements.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) programs have grown in popularity in Egypt over the last ten years.  Most programs are limited to multinational and larger domestic companies as well as the banking sector and take the form of funding and sponsorship for initiatives supporting entrepreneurship and education and other social activities.  Environmental and technology programs are also garnering greater participation.  The Ministry of Trade has engaged constructively with corporations promoting RBC programs, supporting corporate social responsibility conferences and providing Cabinet-level representation as a sign of support to businesses promoting RBC programming.

A number of organizations and corporations work to foster the development of RBC in Egypt.  The American Chamber of Commerce has an active corporate social responsibility committee.  Several U.S. pharmaceutical companies are actively engaged in RBC programs related to Egypt’s hepatitis-C epidemic.  The Egyptian Corporate Responsibility Center, which is the UN Global Compact local network focal point in Egypt, aims to empower businesses to develop sustainable business models as well as improve the national capacity to design, apply, and monitor sustainable responsible business conduct policies.  In March 2010, Egypt launched an environmental, social, and governance index, the second of its kind in the world after India’s, with training and technical assistance from Standard and Poor’s.  Egypt does not participate in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.  Public information about Egypt’s extractive industries remains limited to the government’s annual budget.

9. Corruption

Egypt has a set of laws to combat corruption by public officials, including an Anti-Bribery Law (articles 103 through 111 of Egypt’s Penal Code), an Illicit Gains Law (Law 62 of 1975 and subsequent amendments in Law 97 of 2015), and a Governmental Accounting Law (Law 27 of 1981), among others.  Countering corruption remains a long-term focus. However, corruption laws have not been consistently enforced.  Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Egypt 117 out of 180 countries in its 2021 survey.  Past surveys from Transparency International reported that nearly half of Egyptians said they had paid a bribe to obtain a public service.

Some private companies use internal controls, ethics, and compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery of government officials. There is no government requirement for private companies to establish internal codes of conduct to prohibit bribery.

Egypt ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption in 2005.  It has not acceded to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery or any other regional anti-corruption conventions.

While NGOs are active in encouraging anti-corruption activities, dialogue between the government and civil society on this issue is almost non-existent. In a 2009 study demonstrating a trend that continues to this day, the OECD found that while government officials publicly asserted they shared civil society organizations’ goals, they rarely cooperated with NGOs, and applied relevant laws in a highly restrictive manner against NGOs critical of government practices.  Media was also limited in its ability to report on corruption, with Article 188 of the Penal Code mandating heavy fines and penalties for unsubstantiated corruption allegations.

U.S. firms have identified corruption as an obstacle to FDI in Egypt. Companies might encounter corruption in the public sector in the form of requests for bribes, using bribes to facilitate required government approvals or licenses, embezzlement, and tampering with official documents.  Corruption and bribery are reported in dealing with public services, customs (import license and import duties), public utilities (water and electrical connection), construction permits, and procurement, as well as in the private sector.  Businesses have described a dual system of payment for services, with one formal payment and a secondary, unofficial payment required for services to be rendered.

10. Political and Security Environment

Stability and economic development remain Egypt’s priorities. The Egyptian government has taken measures to eliminate politically motivated violence while also limiting peaceful protests and political expression. Egypt’s presidential elections in March 2018 and senatorial elections in August 2020 proceeded without incident. In 2020 and 2021, all terrorist attacks took place in the Sinai Peninsula.  Nevertheless, terrorist plans to target civilians, tourists, and security personnel in mainland Egypt and the greater Cairo region remained a concern. The government has been conducting a comprehensive counterterrorism offensive in the Sinai since early 2018 in response to terrorist attacks against military installations and personnel by ISIS-affiliated militant groups.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Official statistics put Egypt’s labor force at approximately 29 million, with an official unemployment rate of 7.3 percent at the end of 2020. Women make up 23.8 percent of the Egyptian labor force and have an unemployment rate of 17.8 percent as of late 2021. Accurate figures are difficult to determine and verify given Egypt’s large informal economy, in which some 62 percent of the non-agricultural workforce is engaged, according to International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates.

The government bureaucracy and public sector enterprises are substantially over-staffed compared to the private sector and international norms. According to the World Bank, Egypt has the highest number of government workers per capita in the world, although state statistics agency CAPMAS announced in March 2022 that public sector employment dropped 8.6 percent in 2021 from 2020, or 15 percent from 2017. Businesses highlight a mismatch between labor skills and market demand, despite high numbers of university graduates in a variety of fields. Foreign companies frequently pay internationally competitive salaries to attract workers with valuable skills.

The Unified Labor Law 12/2003 provides comprehensive guidelines on labor relations, including hiring, working hours, termination of employees, training, health, and safety. The law grants a qualified right for employees to strike and stipulates rules and guidelines governing mediation, arbitration, and collective bargaining between employees and employers. Non-discrimination clauses are included, and the law complies with labor-related ILO conventions regulating the employment and training of women and eligible children. Egypt ratified ILO Convention 182 on combating the Worst Forms of Child Labor in 2002. In 2018, Egypt launched the first National Action Plan on combating the Worst Forms of Child Labor. The law also created a national committee to formulate general labor policies and the National Council of Wages, whose mandate is to discuss wage-related issues and national minimum-wage policy, but it has rarely convened, and a minimum wage has rarely been enforced in the private sector.

Parliament adopted a new Trade Unions Law (Law 213 of 2017) in late 2017, replacing a 1976 law, which experts said was out of compliance with Egypt’s commitments to ILO conventions. After a 2016 Ministry of Manpower and Migration (MOMM) directive not to recognize documentation from any trade union without a stamp from the government-affiliated Egyptian Trade Union Federation, the new law established procedures for registering independent trade unions, but some of the unions noted that the directorates of the MOMM did not implement the law and placed restrictions on freedoms of association and organizing for trade union elections. Executive regulations for trade union elections stipulate a very tight deadline of three months for trade union organizations to legalize their status, and one month to hold elections, which, critics said, restricted the ability of unions to legalize their status or to campaign. The GoE registered two new independent labor unions in 2018, and a further seven in 2020 and 2021 as part of a cooperative program with the International Labor Organization.

In July 2019, the Egyptian Parliament passed a series of amendments (Law 142 of 2019) to the 2017 Trade Unions Law that reduced the minimum membership required to form a trade union and abolished prison sentences for violations of the law. The amendments reduced the minimum number of workers required to form a trade union committee from 150 to 50, the number of trade union committees to form a general union from 15 to 10 committees, and the number of workers in a general union from 20,000 to 15,000. The amendments also decreased the number of unions necessary to establish a trade union federation from 10 to 7 and the number of workers in a trade union from 200,000 to 150,000. Under the new law, a trade union or workers’ committee may be formed if 150 employees in an entity express a desire to organize.

Based on the new amendments to the Trade Unions Law and a request from the Egyptian government for assistance implementing them and meeting international labor standards, the International Labor Organization’s and International Finance Corporation’s joint Better Work Program launched in Egypt in March 2020.

The Trade Unions law explicitly bans compulsory membership or the collection of union dues without written consent of the worker and allows members to quit unions. Each union, general union, or federation is registered as an independent legal entity, thereby enabling any such entity to exit any higher-level entity.

The 2014 Constitution stipulated in Article 76 that “establishing unions and federations is a right that is guaranteed by the law.” Only courts are allowed to dissolve unions. The 2014 Constitution maintained past practice in stipulating that “one syndicate is allowed per profession.” The Egyptian constitutional legislation differentiates between white-collar syndicates (e.g., doctors, lawyers, journalists) and blue-collar workers (e.g., transportation, food, mining workers). Workers in Egypt have the right to strike peacefully, but strikers are legally obliged to notify the employer and concerned administrative officials of the reasons and time frame of the strike 10 days in advance. In addition, strike actions are not permitted to take place outside the property of businesses. The law prohibits strikes in strategic or vital establishments in which the interruption of work could result in disturbing national security or basic services provided to citizens. In practice, however, workers strike in all sectors, without following these procedures, but at risk of prosecution by the government.

Collective negotiation is allowed between trade union organizations and private sector employers or their organizations. Agreements reached through negotiations are recorded in collective agreements regulated by the Unified Labor law and usually registered at MOMM. Collective bargaining is technically not permitted in the public sector, though it exists in practice. The government often intervenes to limit or manage collective bargaining negotiations in all sectors.

MOMM sets worker health and safety standards, which also apply in public and private free zones and the Special Economic Zones (see below). Enforcement and inspection, however, are uneven. The Unified Labor Law prohibits employers from maintaining hazardous working conditions, and workers have the right to remove themselves from hazardous conditions without risking loss of employment.

Egyptian labor laws allow employers to close or downsize operations for economic reasons. The government, however, has taken steps to halt downsizing in specific cases. The Unemployment Insurance Law, also known as the Emergency Subsidy Fund Law 156 of 2002, sets a fund to compensate employees whose wages are suspended due to partial or complete closure of their firm or due to its downsizing. The Fund allocates financial resources that will come from a one percent deduction from the base salaries of public and private sector employees. According to foreign investors, certain aspects of Egypt’s labor laws and policies are significant business impediments, particularly the difficulty of dismissing employees. To overcome these difficulties, companies often hire workers on temporary contracts; some employees remain on a series of one-year contracts for more than 10 years. Employers sometimes also require applicants to sign a “Form 6,” an undated voluntary resignation form which the employer can use at any time, as a condition of their employment. Negotiations on drafting a new Labor Law, which has been under consideration in the Parliament for two years, have included discussion of requiring employers to offer permanent employee status after a certain number of years with the company and declaring Form 6 or any letter of resignation null and void if signed prior to the date of termination.

Egypt has a dispute resolution mechanism for workers. If a dispute concerning work conditions, terms, or employment provisions arises, both the employer and the worker have the right to ask the competent administrative authorities to initiate informal negotiations to settle the dispute. This right can be exercised only within seven days of the beginning of the dispute. If a solution is not found within 10 days from the time administrative authorities were requested, both the employer and the worker can resort to a judicial committee within 45 days of the dispute. This committee comprises two judges, a representative of MOMM, and representatives from the trade union and one of the employers’ associations. The decision of this committee is provided within 60 days. If the decision of the judicial committee concerns discharging a permanent employee, the sentence is delivered within 15 days. When the committee decides against an employer’s decision to fire, the employer must reintegrate the latter in his/her job and pay all due salaries. If the employer does not respect the sentence, the employee is entitled to receive compensation for unlawful dismissal.

Labor Law 12 of 2003 sought to make it easier to terminate an employment contract in the event of “difficult economic conditions.” The Law allows an employer to close his establishment totally or partially or to reduce its size of activity for economic reasons, following approval from a committee designated by the Prime Minister. In addition, the employer must pay former employees a sum equal to one month of the employee’s total salary for each of his first five years of service and one and a half months of salary for each year of service over and above the first five years. Workers who have been dismissed have the right to appeal. Workers in the public sector enjoy lifelong job security as contracts cannot be terminated in this fashion; however, government salaries have eroded as inflation has outpaced increases.

Egypt has regulations restricting access for foreigners to Egyptian worker visas, though application of these provisions has been inconsistent. The government plans to phase out visas for unskilled workers, but as yet has not done so. For most other jobs, employers may hire foreign workers on a temporary six-month basis but must also hire two Egyptians to be trained to do the job during that period. Only jobs where it is not possible for Egyptians to acquire the requisite skills will remain open to foreign workers. Application of these regulations is inconsistent.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount  
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2020 $319,056 2020 $365,253 www.worldbank.org/en/country 
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 11 2020 $11,206 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data 
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2019 $1 BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data 
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2020 41% UNCTAD data available at
https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/
World%20Investment%20Report/Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx
 
 

* Sources for Host Country Data: Central Bank of Egypt; CAPMAS; GAFI

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Jordan

Executive Summary

Since King Abdullah II’s 1999 ascension to the throne, Jordan has taken steps to encourage foreign investment and to develop an outward-oriented, market-based, and globally competitive economy. Jordan is also uniquely poised as a platform to host investments focused on the reconstruction of Iraq and other projects in regional markets.

Jordan is committed to investment promotion as a key driver of economic growth and job creation, though in practice these policies are implemented unevenly. Traditionally, foreign investment has been concentrated in the energy (from both conventional sources and renewables), tourism, real estate, manufacturing, and services sectors. The Government of Jordan offers a range of incentives to potential investors and has undertaken measures to review and enhance the economic, financial, and legal framework governing the investment process. However, despite improvement on doing business indicators, operating in Jordan is more difficult than elsewhere in the region. U.S. investors specifically cite instability in the tax regime and incentive packages as a key challenge, as well as public-private interface issues including the government’s inconsistent interpretation of its policies and regulations.

Jordan’s economic growth has been limited for over a decade by exogenous shocks, including the global financial crisis, energy disruptions during the 2011 Arab Spring, the 2015 closure of Jordans borders with Iraq and Syria, and the Syrian civil war. Although the borders with Iraq fully and Syria partially reopened in 2017 and 2018 respectively, cross-border movements have not recovered to previous levels. After a 1.6 percent GDP contraction in 2020 due to the pandemic, Jordan achieved 2.2 percent real GDP growth in 2021. IMF projections estimate growth will reach 2.7 percent in 2022.

In recent years, the government has run large annual budget deficits and reducing the financing gap with loans, foreign grants, and savings. In March 2020, the IMF board approved a $1.3 billion Extended Fund Facility (EFF) program focused on fiscal consolidation, increased revenue collection, targeted social spending, economic growth, and job creation. The IMF also released additional credit from a Rapid Financing Instrument to help Jordan meet its fiscal obligations during the pandemic. In January 2022, Jordan and the IMF completed its third review of the EFF program.

In October 2021, Jordan established a dedicated Ministry of Investment, which has absorbed the duties of the Jordan Investment Commission and the Public Private Partnerships (PPP) Unit. The Minister of Investment is charged with all issues related to local and foreign investors and setting policies to stimulate investment and enhance competitiveness.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) dropped slightly by 1.5 percent to JD 509.8 million ($720 million) in 2020 compared to 2019. FDI inflow reached JD 269.4 million ($380 million) during the first three quarters of 2021.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 58 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
Global Innovation Index 2021 81 of 132 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2020 USD $ 156 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2021 USD 4,310 https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Jordan has twenty-two SOEs of different sizes and mandates that are fully owned by the government.  Wholly-owned SOEs employ around 11,000 people and have assets exceeding $8 billion. The government has more than 50 percent ownership in six companies, employing around 4,000 individuals, with total assets of $1.3 billion.

Most SOEs are small in terms of operations, assets, number of employees, and income. The largest SOEs are: National Electrical Power Company (NEPCO), Samra Electric Power Company, the Yarmouk Water Company, and Aqaba Development Corporation (ADC).

On average, since 2010, the private sector has maintained its share in the Jordanian economy’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The proportion remains around the 84% to 86% of GDP.  SOEs in Jordan exercise delegated governmental powers and operate in fields not yet open for private investment, such as managing the transmission and distribution of electrical power and water.  Other SOE activities include logistics, mining, storage and inventory management of strategic products, and some economic development activities such as Aqaba Port Company, Jordan National Petroleum Company, and Jordan Silos and Supply General Company.  The government supports these companies as necessary, for example, the government has issued and guaranteed Treasury bonds for NEPCO since 2011 to ensure continuous power supply for the country.

SOEs generally compete on equal terms with private enterprises with respect to access to markets, credit, and other business operations.  The law does not provide preferential treatment to SOEs, and they are held accountable by their Board of Directors, typically chaired by the sector-relevant Minister and the Audit Bureau.

Jordan is not a party to the World Trade Agreement (WTO) Government Procurement Agreement.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

9. Corruption

Courts convicted a former Minister of Public Works and Housing, Customs Director General, and several local elected officials for corruption in separate trials during 2021. In September 2021, the State Security Court issued verdicts in a case related to the illegal production and smuggling of tobacco. A three-judge panel convicted 23 defendants and sentenced the chief suspect to 20 years’ imprisonment. The judges also acquitted four defendants and dismissed charges on two defendants who died during the trial. The verdict was subject to appeal at the Court of Cassation. The State Security Court also imposed fines of JD 179 million ($252 million) on multiple defendants in the case, requiring additional hearings.

Jordan was the first Middle Eastern country to sign and ratify the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in 2005. In 2006, Jordan issued a code of conduct for the public sector, enacted an Illicit Gains Law, and Anti-Corruption Law. Jordanian law defines corruption as any act that violates official duties, all acts related to favoritism and nepotism that could deprive others from their legitimate rights, economic crimes, and misuse of power.

The Illicit Gains Law requires designated officials, their spouses, and minor children to file financial disclosures with the Integrity and Anti-Corruption Commission (IACC). Designated officials include the prime minister, cabinet members, members of parliament, senior government officials, as well as municipal-level council members and executives.

In 2019, Parliament amended the IACC Law granting the IACC more authority to access asset disclosure filings of officials exhibiting unexplained wealth. The amendment empowers the commission to request asset seizures, international travel bans, and suspension of officials under investigation for corruption. The amendment also increases the IACC’s administrative autonomy by enabling the commission to update its own regulations and protecting IACC board members and the chairperson from arbitrary dismissal.

In 2018, the government issued the Code of Governance Practices of Policies and Legislative Instruments in Government Departments, to improve the predictability of legal and regulatory framework governing the business environment.

A new Audit Bureau Law was enacted in 2018 to strengthen audit performance, capacity and independence in line with International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) standards. Other related laws include the Penal/Criminal Code, Anti-Money Laundering Law, Right to Access Information Law, and the Economic Crimes Law.

Jordan is not a party to the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery.

10. Political and Security Environment

The threat of terrorism remains high in Jordan. Transnational and indigenous terrorist groups have demonstrated the capability to plan and implement attacks in Jordan. Violent extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, including the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS), and al-Qa’ida, directly or indirectly have conducted or supported attacks in Jordan and continue to plot against local security forces, U.S. and Western interests and “soft” targets, such as high-profile public events, hotels, places of worship, restaurants, schools, and malls. Jordan’s prominent role in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and its shared borders with Iraq and Syria increase the potential for future terrorist incidents.

Demonstrations occur frequently. They may take place in response to political or economic issues, on politically significant holidays, and during international events. In general, demonstrations remain peaceful. However, some have turned violent, even when intended to be peaceful, leading security officials to intervene.

Jordan remained a committed partner on counterterrorism and countering violent extremism in 2021. As a regional leader in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Jordan played an important role in Coalition successes in degrading the terrorist group’s territorial control and operational reach.

Although Jordan experienced a decrease in terrorist activity in 2021 compared to previous years partially due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, the country faced a continued threat from terror groups. While the Jordanian security forces thwarted plots and apprehended suspected terrorists, the threat of domestic radicalization, especially online, persisted.

Visitors should consult current State Department public announcements at www.travel.state.gov  before traveling to Jordan.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

According to Jordan’s Department of Statistics, in 2021 the total number of employed persons over the age of 15 was approximately 1.3 million, and the total number of unemployed persons was 425,000, suggesting a total workforce of approximately 1.7 million. Jordan does not officially publish a labor participation rate but given a population of 5.1 million persons above the age of 15, the implied labor participation rate is 33 percent. Jordan’s unemployment rate as of September 30, 2021, was 23.2 percent.

Women and youth are underrepresented in Jordan’s labor market. In 2021, the unemployment rate for women was 30.8 percent, and the labor participation rate for women was 14.5 percent. At the same time, the unemployment rate for youth (15-25 years) was 48.5 percent, and the labor participation rate was 34.4 percent.

Jordan does not officially track the nationality of its workforce. However, 31 percent of Jordan’s total population are not Jordanian nationals (either refugees or non-Jordanian workers) and non-Jordanian workers play a significant role in Jordan’s economy, including the informal economy.

Jordan’s workforce (employed and unemployed) is largely well educated, with nearly 40 percent holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, and literacy rates approaching 100 percent. However, educational attainment rates among the population at large are significantly lower, especially among the older population.

Informal labor plays a significant part in Jordan’s economy. Official statistics are unavailable; however, experts estimate that informal labor may account for as much as 41 percent of Jordan’s actual workforce and 15 percent of GDP. There have been few analyses on the interaction between the informal and formal sectors of the economy. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that the agriculture sector and the domestic sector rely heavily on informal employment. In January 2021, agriculture sector employers protested attempts to regularize employment in that sector, complaining regularized employment arrangements would erode their competitiveness.

The COVID-19 pandemic shed light on conditions faced by workers in the informal economy, who do not have access to social welfare protection or medical insurance or may suffer from poor working environment, unfair pay, and harassment. In response to these concerns, the Government of Jordan established a complementary welfare support system in 2021 to support vulnerable workers.

According to Jordan’s Civil Service Bureau, the labor market needs certain medical specialists (such as respiratory therapists), engineers, and cybersecurity specialists. Jordan has a surplus of people educated in the humanities and social sciences.

Many professions and types of positions may be filled only by Jordanians, e.g. administrative professions such as data entry, secretarial tasks and wholesale/retail business. In addition, each sector has a designated minimum percentage of Jordanian employees. The Minister of Labor has the authority to grant exceptions to these policies.

The Jordanian Labor Law restricts layoffs under most circumstances by requiring prior notice to the Ministry of Labor and a guarantee of payment of benefits and severance payments to which the severed employee is entitled. However, termination without prior notice is allowed under certain conditions. Companies may obtain permission from the Ministry of Labor (MOL) to reduce their staff as a result of business restructuring. The social security system provides up to six months of unemployment benefits for formally registered workers.

Local labor requirements in economic development zones and free trade zones vary based on the type of economic activity. For example, employers in qualified industrial zones are restricted in their ability to transfer employees to other sectors and have certain obligations to repatriate foreign workers at the end of their contract terms.

Collective bargaining in Jordan is rare, and labor unions are generally weak. Labor unions serve primarily as intermediaries between workers and the MOL and may engage in collective bargaining on behalf of workers. The 17 recognized unions are all members of the General Federation of Jordanian Trade Unions. Estimates put union membership at less than 10 percent of the labor force. In 2021, labor unions representing workers in garment, food, petrochemical, and oil industries signed forty Collective Bargaining Agreements.

Articles 120, 121, and 122 of the Jordanian law set forth a mechanism for collective labor dispute resolution beginning with labor inspector mediation. If mediation fails, the Minister of Labor reviews the case, followed by the Conciliation Council, then finally by the Labor Court under the Magistrate and Penalty Court to resolve the case within seven days.

There were two strikes in 2021, at Jordanian Cement Factories Company and Aqaba Container Terminal Company. The government’s role has been to keep communications open between workers and management. Neither posed a serious investment risk.

The International Labor Organization has produced a legal analysis showing the extent to which Jordanian legislation is compatible with Convention No. 190 on violence and harassment in the workplace with the aim of establishing a legislative framework conducive to creating a workplace free of these two phenomena. To date, the Government of Jordan has not addressed the issues raised in this analysis, such as defining, comprehensively prohibiting, and/or addressing workplace violence and harassment.

14. Contact for More Information

Shaden Al-Majali
Senior Economic Specialist
+962 6 590 6317
Majalisa@state.gov 

Saudi Arabia

Executive Summary

In 2021, the Saudi Arabian government (SAG) continued its ambitious socio-economic reforms, collectively known as Vision 2030. Spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Vision 2030 provides a roadmap for the development of new economic sectors and a transition to a digital, knowledge-based economy. The reforms aim to diversify the Saudi economy away from oil and create more private sector jobs for a young and growing population.

To accomplish these ambitious Vision 2030 reforms, the SAG is seeking foreign investment in burgeoning sectors such as infrastructure, tourism, entertainment, and renewable energy. Saudi Arabia aims to become a major transport and logistics hub linking Asia, Europe, and Africa. Infrastructure projects related to this goal include various “economic cities” and special economic zones, which will serve as hubs for petrochemicals, mining, logistics, manufacturing, and digital industries. The SAG plans to double the size of Riyadh city and welcomes investment in its multi-billion-dollar giga-projects (including NEOM, Qiddiya, the Red Sea Project, and Amaala), which are the jumping-off points for its nascent tourism industry. The Kingdom is also developing tourism infrastructure at natural sites, such as AlUla, and the SAG continues to grow its successful Saudi Seasons initiative, which hosts tourism and cultural events throughout the country.

The Saudi entertainment and sports sector, aided by a relaxation of social restrictions, is also primed for foreign investment. The country hopes to build hundreds of movie theaters and the SAG aims to sign agreements for production studios in Saudi Arabia for end-to-end film production. The SAG seeks to host world class sporting events and has already hosted the European Golf Tour, Diriyah ePrix, Dakar Rally, and Saudi Formula One Grand Prix. In addition, recent film festivals and concerts have demonstrated strong demand for art and cultural events. Lastly, the SAG is eager for foreign investment in green projects related to renewable energy, hydrogen, waste management, and carbon capture to reach net-zero emissions by 2060. It is particularly interested in green capacity-building and technology-sharing initiatives.

Despite these investment opportunities, investor concerns persist regarding business predictability, transparency, and political risk. Although some activists have recently been released, the continued detention and prosecution of activists remains a significant concern, while there has been little progress on fundamental freedoms of speech and religion. The pressure to generate non-oil revenue and provide increased employment opportunities for Saudi citizens has prompted the SAG to implement measures that may weaken the country’s investment climate going forward. Increased fees for expatriate workers and their dependents, as well as “Saudization” policies requiring certain businesses to employ a quota of Saudi workers, have led to disruptions in some private sector activities. Additionally, while specific details have not yet been released, Saudi Arabia announced in 2021 that multinational companies wanting to contract with the SAG must establish their regional headquarters in Saudi Arabia by 2024.

The SAG has taken important steps since 2018 to improve intellectual property rights (IPR) protection, enforcement, and awareness. While some concerns remain regarding IPR protection in the pharmaceutical sector, no new incidents related to regulatory data protection for health and safety information have been reported since October 2020, and in March 2022 Saudi Arabia issued a public statement stipulating that data protection in the Kingdom is for five years. While the sharp downturn in oil prices in 2020 put pressure on Saudi Arabia’s fiscal situation, the subsequent spike in oil prices has increased government revenue and the SAG expects a budget surplus in 2022.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 52 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
Global Innovation Index 2021 66 of 132 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2020 $11,386 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2020 $21,930 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

 

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

7. State-Owned Enterprises

SOEs play a leading role in the Saudi economy, particularly in water, power, oil, natural gas, petrochemicals, and transportation. Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest exporter of crude oil and a large-scale oil refiner and producer of natural gas, is 94.5 percent SAG-owned, and its revenues typically contribute the majority of the SAG’s budget. Four of the eleven representatives on Aramco’s board of directors are from the SAG, including the chairman, who serves concurrently as the Managing Director of the PIF. In December 2019, the Kingdom fulfilled its long-standing promise to publicly list shares of Saudi Aramco. The initial public offering (IPO) of 1.5 percent of Aramco’s shares on the Saudi Tadawul stock market on December 11, 2019, was the largest-ever IPO and valued Aramco at $1.7 trillion. The IPO generated $25.6 billion in proceeds, exceeding the $25 billion Alibaba raised in 2014 in the largest previous IPO in history. In February 2022, the SAG announced the transfer of four percent of Aramco’s shares to the PIF. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced that after the transfer, the state will remain Aramco’s largest shareholder, retaining more than 94 percent of the total shares.

In March 2019, Saudi Aramco signed a share purchase agreement to acquire 70 percent of SABIC, Saudi Arabia’s leading petrochemical company and the fourth largest in the world, from the PIF in a transaction worth $69.1 billion; the acquisition was completed in 2020. Five of the nine representatives on SABIC’s board of directors are from the SAG, including the chairman and vice chairman. The SAG is similarly well-represented in the leadership of other SOEs. The SAG either wholly owns or holds controlling shares in many other major Saudi companies, such as the Saudi Electricity Company, Saudia Airlines, the Saline Water Conversion Company, Ma’aden, the National Commercial Bank, and other leading financial institutions.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

There is a growing awareness of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Saudi Arabia. The King Khalid Foundation issues annual “responsible competitiveness” awards to companies doing business in Saudi Arabia for outstanding CSR activities. In March 2021, the SAG approved the formation of a committee on corporate social responsibility in the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development.

Saudi Arabia does not participate in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

9. Corruption

In December 2019, King Salman issued royal decrees creating the Oversight and Anti-Corruption Commission (“Nazaha”). Nazaha is responsible for promoting transparency and combating all forms of financial and administrative corruption. Nazaha reports directly to King Salman and has the power to dismiss a government employee even if found not guilty by the specialized anti-corruption court. Throughout 2021, Nazaha published monthly press releases detailing its arrests and investigations, often including high-ranking officials, such as generals and judges, from every ministry in the SAG. The releases are available on the Nazaha website at http://www.nazaha.gov.sa/en/Pages/Default.aspx .

Foreign firms have identified corruption as a barrier to investment in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has a relatively comprehensive legal framework that addresses corruption, but many firms perceive enforcement as selective. The Combating Bribery Law and the Civil Service Law, the two primary Saudi laws that address corruption, provide for criminal penalties in cases of official corruption. Government employees who are found guilty of accepting bribes face 10 years in prison or fines up to US$267,000. Ministers and other senior government officials appointed by royal decree are forbidden from engaging in business activities with their ministry or organization. Saudi corruption laws cover most methods of bribery and abuse of authority for personal interest, and in December 2021 Saudi Arabia amended the Combating Bribery Law to criminalize foreign bribery. Only senior Nazaha officials are subject to financial disclosure laws. The government is considering disclosure regulations for other officials but has yet to finalize them.

SAMA oversees a strict regime to combat money laundering. Saudi Arabia’s Anti-Money Laundering Law provides for sentences up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $1.3 million. The Basic Law of Governance contains provisions on proper management of state assets and authorizes audits and investigations of administrative and financial malfeasance.

The Government Tenders and Procurement Law regulates public procurements, which are often a source of corruption. The law provides for public announcement of tenders and guidelines for the award of public contracts. Saudi Arabia is an observer of the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA).

Saudi Arabia ratified the UN Convention against Corruption in April 2013 and signed the G20 Anti-Corruption Action Plan in November 2010. Saudi Arabia was admitted to the OECD Working Group on Bribery in February 2021, and the International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA) elected Saudi Arabia to its Board of Governors in April 2022.

The Kingdom ranks 52 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2021.

10. Political and Security Environment

The Department of State regularly reviews and updates travel advisories to apprise U.S. citizens of the security situation in Saudi Arabia and frequently reminds U.S. citizens of recommended security precautions. Please visit www.travel.state.gov  for further information, including the latest travel advisory.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (MHRSD) sets labor policy and, along with the Ministry of Interior, regulates recruitment and employment of expatriate labor, which makes up a majority of the private sector workforce. About 76 percent of jobs in the country are held by expatriates, who represent roughly 38 percent of the total population. The largest groups of foreign workers come from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, the Philippines, and Yemen. Saudis occupy about 93 percent of government jobs, but only about 24 percent of the total jobs in the Kingdom. Roughly 46 percent of employed Saudi nationals work in the public sector.

The removal of guardianship laws and travel restrictions for women, the introduction of workplace protections, and recent judicial reforms that provide additional protection have enabled more women to enter the labor force. From 2016 to 2020, the Saudi female labor participation rate increased from 19 percent to 33 percent. As of Q4 2021, Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Statistics estimates unemployment at 6.9 percent for the total population and 11 percent for Saudi nationals, but these figures mask a high youth unemployment rate, a Saudi female unemployment rate of 22.5 percent, and low Saudi labor participation rates (51.5 percent overall; 35.6 percent for women). With approximately 60 percent of the Saudi population under the age of 35, job creation for new Saudi labor market entrants will remain a challenge.

The SAG encourages Saudi employment through “Saudization” policies that place quotas on employment of Saudi nationals in certain sectors, coupled with limits on the number of visas for foreign workers available to companies. In 2011, the Ministry of Labor and Social Development (the forerunner of MHRSD) laid out a sophisticated plan known as Nitaqat, under which companies are divided into categories, each with a different set of quotas for Saudi employment based on company size.

The SAG has taken additional measures to strengthen the Nitaqat program and expand the scope of Saudization. The MHRSD has mandated that certain job categories in specific economic sectors only employ Saudi nationals. The ministry has likewise mandated that only Saudi women can occupy retail jobs in certain businesses that cater to female customers. Many elements of Saudization and Nitaqat have garnered criticism from the private sector, but the SAG claims these policies have substantially increased the percentage of Saudi nationals working in the private sector over the last several years and has indicated that there is flexibility in implementation for special cases.

Saudi Arabia’s labor laws forbid union activity, strikes, and collective bargaining. However, the government allows companies that employ more than 100 Saudis to form “labor committees” to discuss work conditions and grievances with management. In 2015, the SAG published 38 amendments to the existing labor law with the aim of expanding Saudi employees’ rights and benefits. In March 2021, MHRSD implemented its Labor Reform Initiative (LRI), which allows foreign workers greater job mobility and freedom to exit Saudi Arabia without the need for the employer’s permission. Domestic workers are not covered under the provisions of either the 2015 regulations or the LRI; separate regulations covering domestic workers were issued in 2013, stipulating employers provide at least nine hours of rest per day, one day off a week, and one month of paid vacation every two years.

Saudi Arabia has taken significant steps to address labor abuses, but weak enforcement continues to result in credible reports of employer violations of foreign employee labor rights. Foreign workers (particularly domestic staff) have encountered employer practices, including passport withholding and non-payment of wages, that constitute trafficking in persons. The Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report details concerns about labor law enforcement within Saudi Arabia’s sponsorship system. It is available at https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-trafficking-in-persons-report/saudi-arabia/.

Overtime work is normally compensated at time-and-a-half rates. The minimum age for employment is 14. The SAG does not adhere to the International Labor Organization’s convention on protecting workers’ rights. Non-Saudis have the right to appeal to specialized committees in the MHRSD regarding wage non-payment and other issues. Penalties issued by the ministry include banning infringing employers from recruiting foreign and/or domestic workers for a minimum of five years.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2020 $700,118  2020 $700,118 www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2020 $11,386 BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) N/A N/A 2020 $6,262 BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP N/A N/A 2020 34.5% UNCTAD data available at

https://unctad.org/topic/investment/world-investment-report

* Source for Host Country Data: Saudi General Authority for Statistics   

According to the UNCTAD World Investment Report, in 2020 Saudi Arabia’s total FDI inward stock was $241.862 billion and total FDI outward stock was $128.759 billion.

Detailed data for inward direct investment (below) is as of 2010, which is the latest available breakdown of inward FDI by country.

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward $169,206 100% Total Outward N/A N/A
Kuwait $16,761 10% Country #1 N/A N/A
France $15,918 9% Country #2 N/A N/A
Japan $13,160 8% Country #3 N/A N/A
United Arab Emirates $12,601 7% Country #4 N/A N/A
China, P.R. $9,035 5% Country #5 N/A N/A
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

*Source: IMF Coordinated Direct Investment Survey (2010 – latest available complete data)

14. Contact for More Information

Economic Section and Foreign Commercial Service Offices
Embassy of the United States of America
P.O. Box 94309
Riyadh 11693, Saudi Arabia
Phone: +966 11 835-4000

Investment Climate Statements
Edit Your Custom Report

01 / Select A Year

02 / Select Sections

03 / Select Countries You can add more than one country or area.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future