Youth unemployment in Jordan remains high, and labor-force participation low, particularly among young women. Graduates do not possess the requisite technical and soft skills needed for the jobs they prefer. Facing poor economic prospects and inadequate income, many youth are unable to marry, live independently, or support a family. This study examines the perceptions of young Jordanians on issues relevant to their transitions into adult roles.
Youth in Jordan
Transitions from Education to Employment
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- How do young Jordanians perceive issues relevant to their transitions into adult roles?
- What are the social impacts of high youth unemployment in Jordan?
- What are Jordanian youths' goals for the future, including their preferred work?
- What are Jordanian youths' perceptions of fairness in the labor market and the barriers to employment? What are the educational experiences of Jordanian youth and the relevancy of that education?
- How do aspirations for work and marriage differ for males and females, and how do the opportunities and barriers they face differ?
- How do Jordanian youth feel about political and civic participation?
Despite strong economic growth during the last decade, youth unemployment in Jordan remains stubbornly high, and labor-force participation markedly low. Young women in particular face labor market barriers in access to many career paths, and their job aspirations are often discouraged by their parents. Graduates of secondary and postsecondary institutions do not possess the requisite technical and soft skills needed for the jobs they expect to get. Facing poor economic prospects and inadequate income, youth are unable to marry, afford to live independently, or support a family. The youth unemployment crisis appears set to plague the country as well as the Middle East region for years to come in the absence of offsetting policy. This study examines the perceptions of young Jordanian men and women on issues relevant to their transitions into adult roles, specifically aspirations for work and family. To achieve the study objectives, we conducted 13 focus groups and 14 one-on-one qualitative interviews with young Jordanians (ages 15–30). Participants came from the nation's capital, Amman, as well as the less urbanized nearby area of Zarqa. We place these subjective perceptions into perspective through a literature review and secondary analysis of national statistics, as well as interviews with experts.
High Youth Unemployment Is a Major Economic and Social Concern in Jordan
- Economic growth has created jobs, but not the jobs that youth aspire to.
- Youth have a strong preference for limited public sector jobs, which provide security and benefits.
- However, youth do not hold unrealistically high expectations of finding government jobs. Overall, they display pessimism about obtaining good employment of any sort.
- Young men are consequently uncertain about their ability to marry and support a family.
Youth's Education Is Not Aligned with Skill Requirements of the Private Sector Labor Market
- Many youth recognize the lack of suitability of their educational preparation for the requirements of the job market.
- Youth do not feel free to pursue careers valued by the market, but instead feel pressure to conform to parental or societal expectations.
- Obtaining higher levels of education was widely desired, but youth face barriers to achieving this goal, including the overwhelming importance of the secondary school exit exam and the financial costs of higher education.
Most Young Women Interviewed Have Career Aspirations
- Although overall female labor-force participation is very low in Jordan, female youth expressed the desire to work, and many would delay marriage to pursue careers.
- Female youth are constrained in their choices by external factors such as family and societal pressures and expectations, not by internalized preferences for traditional jobs or family roles.
- Career choices for women entering the workforce are limited beyond the government sector and within the government, restricted to certain areas such as teaching.
- School curricula at both secondary and postsecondary levels should be reoriented to professions that will be more in demand, especially by the private sector, such as scientific and technical professions. Use incentives, such as directing more scholarships or financial aid to such areas of study, to encourage greater interest in private sector careers.
- Expand and improve health insurance and unemployment insurance, because strong social safety nets and public support to the unemployed will serve to reduce risks incurred by choosing private sector work.
- Explore offering tax breaks or other incentives to employers in nontraditional fields and in the private sector to hire women.
- Provide encouragement and financial incentives for girls to study in nontraditional areas such as science and technology.
- It may also be necessary to enact measures that alleviate particular constraints to women's ability to work (e.g., providing free or convenient transportation to work).
Table of Contents
Economic Conditions and Employment
Education Opportunities, Skills Mismatch, and Barriers to Completion
Aspirations and Frustrations of Youth