Unemployment in Jordan has been expanding over the past 10 years, and its rate continued to grow in an unprecedented manner during the past two years.
External factors, including the repercussions of the corona pandemic, have played a role in exacerbating the unemployment problem in Jordan, but internal policies, structural imbalances in the labor market and vocational preparation, and partnerships between the public and private sectors have played the greatest role in the exacerbation of the problem, and the stalling of solutions and lack of real progress in solving it.
The Jordanian constitution, since 1952, enshrines the right to work, yet despite this and the existence of more than 17 strategies related to employment and combating unemployment, no positive results have been registered, rather, bureaucratic challenges have increased.
The “Youth Unemployment in Jordan: Failed Strategies and Deferred Promises” study, conducted by the Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD) as part of the efforts of the Human and Economic Development Forum (HEDF) tries to address the issue as it seeks to analyze the trends, characteristics, and causes of unemployment among Jordanian youths, as well as the reasons for the inadequacy of the various employment measures and legislative strategies adopted by successive Jordanian governments to address this serious issue. It suggests recommendations aimed at facilitating the access of youths in Jordan to decent work to contribute to the Jordanian economy
The unemployment rate in Jordan today reaches about 25% and grows among women to more than 33%. Official statistics show that 59.3% of the unemployed are holders of a high school diploma or higher degree. The unemployment rate among men with a bachelor’s degree or higher reaches 29.5%, while it jumps among women to 81.8%. The unemployment rate in the last quarter of 2022 among young people in the 15-24 age group reached about 46.9%: 42.1% among men and 67.5% among women.
According to ARDD Executive Director Samar Muhareb, “no previous government strategy managed to come up with an optimal solution; instead, they made it impossible for unemployed individuals to participate in the search for feasible and sustainable solutions”. She also said that the unemployed are often faced with “psychological and social hardship” and low self-esteem because of unmet daily moral and material needs, as well as uncertainty about the future and loss of hope that they would achieve personal ambitions.
She added: “All of this hinders their search for a solution,” pointing out that the private sector and civil society are shackled, and find no room, within the current legislation and amid the government bureaucracy, to be a real part of the solution, “so on Labor Day, we release these recommendations, hoping that they will be taken into consideration.”
In the context of what was mentioned in the analytical study, the imbalance on both the supply and the demand side is considered one of the main causes of youth unemployment in Jordan, especially in light of the fact that the youth suffer from a lack in quality education that could equip them with practical skills. The study also showed widespread unemployment among women, due to a lack of childcare services, the persistence of gender discriminatory legal frameworks, in addition to certain social norms, among others, which explains the low rate of women’s participation in the labor market.
As for the private sector, the study pointed to the need to better enforce the provisions of the Labor Law in private institutions, in order to create a decent work environment and to exert concerted efforts that see the government and trade unions hold dialogue and cooperate to improve the workers’ conditions, in addition to creating an environment that better encourages initiative and leadership (including social entrepreneurship), stimulates investments, especially in micro, small and medium projects, works with educational institutions to improve the employability of young people, and launches awareness campaigns among adolescents and youths that point to the importance of vocational/technical training in taking advantage of job opportunities in the private sector.
The study also shows the many factors that hinder the application and implementation of strategies, including the lack of inclusion of concerned and active parties, such as civil society institutions, youths, and others, in the process of developing strategies, as well as coming up with partial and non-holistic strategies,”] which makes it difficult to understand them or reach work intersectionality, but rather leads to duplication of efforts with minimal impact, and to a large number of government amendments.
The government is required to modernize employment services and monitor the work environment, increase public investment in small and medium enterprises, and expand the industrial sector, in the governorates in particular, as well as to design a sound employment strategy that takes into account the development of the labor market and the Jordanian economy. Also required is the involvement of relevant civil society organizations and actors in the private sector and trade unions in the development and implementation of these strategies.
Finally, there is a need to continuously update the national strategy for employment within data and evidence on the ground, to reconsider the labor legislation with a view to better protect workers, to design strategies that envisage the creation of decent job opportunities that attract workers, as well as to conduct studies and research concerning the required future professions and motivate young people to turn to these professions. Most importantly, activate employment strategies, work with clear plans, and implement their stipulations effectively.