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Extended families tolerate unemployment

Jan 22,2018 - Last updated at Jan 22,2018

The latest data from the Department of Statistics for the third quarter of 2017 indicated that unemployment rate in Jordan has stabilised at a new level, a record of 18.5 per cent, one of the highest in the world.

We hoped that unemployment will start to decline due to the publicised government projects and the new private sector projects, the owners of which claimed, would generate hundreds and thousands of new jobs. Our hopes failed and unemployment proved its ability not only to stay at the present high levels but also to grow.

The present registered rate of unemployment reached 18.5 per cent, which is the highest in recent years. It seems that we did not reach the ways and means to effectively fight unemployment even though fighting it is the slogan of the present situation and an agreed first priority.

Unemployment among males stood at 15.4 per cent to rise to 30 per cent among females.

This does not mean that the number of unemployed females exceeds the number of unemployed males. High rate of female unemployment is due to the fact that the bulk of unemployed females do not look for jobs and accordingly do not count as unemployed.

There is no claim, however, that employment opportunities are equally available to males and females. Actually, most of the working women are found in limited sectors such as teaching, nursing and secretary related jobs.

Employers still prefer males because they may be more stable in their jobs and because of their readiness to be sent to any location within the country or abroad.

An observation must not be ignored: Education is not enough as an instrument to fight unemployment. In fact the majority of the unemployed Jordanians are highly educated. They graduated from universities and high schools. They don’t accept the available vacancies in the market because they see them beneath their education level and high expectations.

One of the major reasons behind unemployment is that jobs are exported abroad when we make imports, three times the size of exports. Around 40 per cent of the cost of goods are labour share. To import more goods means to lose more jobs. Experts would do the opposite but unfortunately they don’t make more than one-third of imports.

At one time we were under the impression that unemployment is due to lack of control over labour market. The reasons were that non-Jordanians are taking jobs that are acceptable to Jordanians.

Egyptians, for example, don’t insist on their rights under the labour law which make them less costly.

Unemployment in Jordan is not a passing state of affairs. It is becoming permanent.


If high unemployment is not creating troubles, it is because most of the unemployed live in extended families with at least one member is working and earning income for the whole family.

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