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‘Economic policies applied during past decades have led to worrisome unemployment rates among youth’

By Ana V. Ibáñez Prieto - Aug 13,2018 - Last updated at Aug 13,2018

Graduates from the Vocational Training, Employment and Entrepreneurship Programme pose for a group photo in Zarqa (Photo courtesy of UNDP)

AMMAN — “The government is in dire need of reviewing the economic and social policies that have led to the decrease in employment opportunities available for Jordanian youth over the past decades,” according to a position paper issued by the Jordan Labour Watch (JLW) on Saturday.

Launched on the occasion of the International Youth Day, which falls on August 12 every year, the paper was presented as “an opportunity to study the reality of the Jordanian youth, the challenges they face in the field of employment and the effect of the policies implemented by the government in this regard”.

“The economic policies applied in the Kingdom during the past decades have led to worrisome unemployment rates among young people, which stand among the highest in the world with a 37.6 per cent of the youth in the 20-24 age group unemployed during the first quarter of 2018,” the paper warned. 

“In addition, many sectors of the Jordanian youth suffer from a lack of decent work conditions when they enter the labour market for the first time,” the statement said, noting that “working conditions are shocking for the vast majority of young job seekers”.

The significant decline in wage levels was one of the most urgent factors to be addressed according to JLW representatives, who noted that  according to 2017 indicators from the Social Security Corporation, a 68.4 per cent of the registered employees have salaries of JD500 per month or less.

“Supporting entrepreneurship in vocational education and training is increasingly important for the government, as it struggles to improve pathways to the labour market for youth,” German Bank for Development Component Manager Bashar Al Zubi said earlier this year, stressing that “given the youth unemployment challenge, entrepreneurship can offer opportunities for the youth to create jobs for themselves and for others”.

“Recently, tangible efforts have been exerted by governmental financial and non-financial institutions to target the graduates of vocational and technical education to promote entrepreneurship and self-employment,” he added, pointing out to the importance of “ensuring that target groups are empowered with the necessary skills, knowledge and understanding to manage their borrowing and investment strategies”. 

“The inability of the local economy to generate new job opportunities comes at a time when the output of the educational system is increasing exponentially,” JLW’s paper continued, stressing the rise in the number of job applicants by 120,000 per year. 

In this regard, the organisation pointed out to the gap between the specialisations currently offered by the higher education system and the actual needs of the Jordanian labour market, as well as the “weak” work conditions in the private sector as the main generator of opportunities for recent university graduates. 

The issue was addressed earlier this year by the Higher Education Council (HEC) through the admission policies set for the next academic year, which “take into account the current absorptive capacity of the labour market per each specialty based on the decision ratified by HEC to reduce the percentage of students in specialties with no labour demand”, Higher Education Minister Adel Tweisi said. 

“Up to this point, we have been able to reduce the number of students in the targeted specialties by 30 per cent,” the minister said in April, explaining that “the objective is now to increase the number of students enrolled in technical specialties, as the labour demand is witnessing a continued increase in this field”.

In a similar vein, economist Wajdi Makhamreh told The Jordan Times that “there is a mismatch between the qualifications that graduates are offering to the labour market and the skills that employees are demanding”, noting that “this, coupled with the huge amount of expatriates populating the low profile jobs, is the root of the unemployment issue in Jordan”.

“Furthermore, we can not ignore the hundreds of employees who leave their jobs due to the extremely low wages,”  the economist added, noting that “the parliament should take responsibility in this issue and increase the minimum wage by law”.

“We believe that there is a need to grant incentives to economic sectors that provide decent working conditions to their workers, in addition to reviewing the education policies in various disciplines and levels to improve their quality,” JLW Director Ahmad Awad told The Jordan Times, calling on the government to “develop fair and effective employment policies while focusing on investments capable of creating more decent job opportunities”.

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