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Import and export of manpower

Mar 02,2014 - Last updated at Mar 02,2014

During 2013, Jordanian expatriates’ remittances amounted to $3.6 billion, equal to 11 per cent of the gross domestic product.

Transfers by guest workers in Jordan to their homelands are estimated to have reached $1.7 billion, equal to 5 per cent of Jordan’s GDP.

Jordan is one of the few countries that exports and imports labour force at the same time, and in relatively high numbers. 

No one knows exactly how many Jordanians are currently working abroad, mainly in the Gulf states, but the number is estimated at around 600,000, which is almost the same number of Egyptians working in Jordan (Syrian workers are still off statistics despite their rapidly rising numbers). 

Although we used to relate expatriates’ remittances to the GDP, they do not actually form part of it. They are included in the gross national product (GNP).

There is no accurate way of calculating the contribution of the Egyptian labourers to the Jordanian economy, but such contribution cannot be less than 10 to 15 per cent of GDP, an indication that the benefit accruing to Jordan due to opening up its labour market may be more than double the cost incurred by the economy in the form of outward remittances in foreign exchange.

The cost of preparing Jordanian expatriates consists in giving them education, training and experience. At one time, I made a simple exploration survey which showed that the return on the investment in expatriates is around 9 per cent a year, not a bad investment.

In other words, one can say, with some degree of confidence, that encouraging Jordanians to work abroad is financially feasible.

Besides the economic benefits, the extensive presence of Jordanians abroad benefits Jordan politically, culturally and in many other ways through their activities and influence in their host communities.

Importing labour is costly, but the return far exceeds the cost.

Generally speaking, opening up labour markets of the Arab world is beneficial to all sides. It should be further encouraged by easing restrictions on visas and residencies.

Some Arab countries like Egypt and Jordan have surpluses of manpower, while others, like the Gulf states, suffer from a scarcity of local labour force.

There is of course a qualitative distinction between Jordanians who work abroad and Egyptians who work in Jordan.

Jordan exports personnel highly qualified in education, engineering, management and security, and imports manual labourers, badly needed to help in agriculture and the construction sector.

In time, this sort of supply and demand in Jordan’s labour market created a sort of distortion in the structure of manpower.

There is a big surplus of educated and experienced people that the national economy cannot absorb, while at the same time there is an acute shortage of manual labour and simple technical jobs in construction, maintenance and agriculture.

This state of affairs makes it impractical to try to replace guest workers with local workers.

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