Jordan's female labour participation rate is only 14 per cent, third lowest in the region

Jordan's female labour participation rate is only 14 per cent, third lowest in the region
Jordan has one of the lowest female labour participation rates in the region, behind just Iraq and Yemen.
2 min read
08 March, 2023
A high gender pay gap, a lack of public transport and an expectation that women carry the burden of childcare and housework have all depressed female labour participation in Jordan. [Getty]

The percentage of women in the workforce in Jordan has remained unchanged over the past decade, a study on Tuesday revealed, calling for reforms to increase female labour participation.

The study, released by the Jordanian Labour Observatory, said that "repellent" working conditions such as low wages, a high gender pay gap and "discriminatory laws" have kept women out of the workforce.

Jordan's female labour participation rate stood at just 14 per cent in the last quarter of 2022, the third lowest in the region, just behind Iraq and Yemen.

"The state of stability in women's economic participation rates for more than three decades is mainly due to weak working conditions in the private sector, in particular wages," Ahmad Awad, the director of the Amman-based Phenix Center for Economics and Informatic Studies, which is associated with the Labour Observatory, told The New Arab.

Live Story

Amman launched an "Economic Modernisation Vision" last year, which includes a focus on increasing women's representation in the workforce.

Jordanian King Abdullah II said on Wednesday that "women are key partners in Jordan's progress," and called for their increased participation in the economy.

Despite policies to increase female employment opportunities, the female labour participation rate has not changed since 2012.

UNICEF has estimated that an increase in female participation by 25 per cent by 2027 could help grow Jordan's GDP by 5 per cent annually – a huge increase from its current growth rate.

The government has addressed barriers to female employment, including lifting restrictions on women working in some economic sectors and jobs which require them to stay out of the home in the evening.

However, the study noted that further reforms are needed, such as legal protections from harassment which extended to clients and customers, not just employers.

Live Story

Awad noted that the new policies could be made to "generate more decent job opportunities," enforce labour standards in the private sector and improve Jordan's public transportation network.

According to the ILO, women in Jordan earn 41 per cent less than their male counterparts in the private sector.

Even in high-ranking positions in Jordan, such as female legislators and officials, women are paid 32 per cent less than their male counterparts.

Social factors have also limited women in the workforce, including the "double burden" placed on women where they are expected to work both paid jobs and take care of the children at home.

As a result, many women move to the informal sector, where labour protections are scant.

Jordan's economy has sputtered in recent years with an almost 25 per cent unemployment rate, sparking protests centred around economic grievances.