A Balancing Act
The Jordan Times recently reported that one of the main obstacles to female employment in Jordan is the lack of childcare for their children. The article states that “Many professionally qualified women in Jordan are less eager to take up a job when they know that their children will not be near them at work, so most of them decide in favour of their ‘domestic chores.’” For women around the world, this information is not surprising. It is widely known that women face more obstacles than men in their careers due to their children.
But in Jordan, this is not the only issue that is holding women back from finding and succeeding in their careers. Youth unemployment is extremely high, especially among recent bachelor degree graduates. Even though more women hold higher education degrees then men, most never find a job. With unemployment so high many women never have the opportunity to enter the work force and after a few years of searching they give up and stop actively seeking jobs.
The official unemployment rate for all Jordanians is 11-12% but for women it is almost double at 22%. However, this number is misleading as it only factors in women who are actively seeking work and not all women in the country who are of an employable age. According to The Brookings Institution working paper from 2014, if these statistics included all women who are not active in the economy it would show that nearly 70% of all females in Jordan are unemployed. This then makes Jordan have the 5th lowest level of economic participation of women in the world.
It is obvious that immediate steps need to be taken to increase female participation in the labor market in Jordan and there are many laws that support this although few are widely enforced. One such law is Article 72 of the Labor Law. Article 72 states that employers that have more than 20 female employees with a total of 10 children under the age of four to provide an adequate daycare centre supervised by trained personnel. However, this article is not well known and not widely enforced. With the enforcement and raised awareness of this, women have the potential to both work and raise their children.
Provision of childcare is an important step to increase women’s participation and better enforcement and expansion of childcare is needed. There have been a variety of campaigns in the past to advocate for the enforcement of this Article although it is still not widely known.
For all women who wish to work, it is a balancing act to learn to work and take care of the family. In Jordan, there are mechanisms that can support women in doing so such as Article 72 although they are not widely known. ARDD-Legal Aid works to empower women on a variety of different levels. Projects such as the Women’s Access to Justice program work to provide Psychosocial Support, Legal Awareness, Leadership and Assertiveness Training and Economic Empowerment so that we can raise awareness on these issues to empower and provide access to justice for all.