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Jordan – Efforts to boost female participation in the labour market underway

07 March 2014

Economic empowerment for Jordanian women is a priority that requires amending some laws and enforcing others to enhance their participation in the job market, according to experts, reports zawya.com.

Wafaa Bani Mustafa Member of Parliament (MP) said work is under way to propose amendments to the Labour Law to provide a better workplace environment for women in the Kingdom. She said the planned amendments include providing nurseries in private sector companies and institutions, as well as ensuring equal wages for men and women in similar jobs.

Ms Mustafa also noted that women's empowerment in other sectors will not succeed unless they are economically independent, a view that is echoed by Ahmad Awad, Director of the Phenix Centre for Economic and Informatics Studies.

According to Mr Awad, in some jobs women prefer to leave the workplace after getting married due to the socially inappropriate work environment, explaining that the situation is the worst in the unorganised job market: "Women who work as secretaries in clinics or other offices are not enrolled in the Social Security system and work for long hours and little payment, although some of them are university graduates."

He noted that in some cases these women stop working when they decide to get married. This, Mr Awad explained, is the reason why women's participation in the labour market is low in Jordan.

Another issue that pushes women to quit their jobs is the harassment that some are subjected to in some workplaces, according to Ms Mustafa and Mr Awad. Both agreed that although this harassment is not confined to women, it should be looked into and addressed in relevant laws.

The Secretary General for the National Forum for Women, Mai Abul Samen, also believes that workplace conditions in the Kingdom are to blame for the decrease in women's contribution to the workforce.

"The rate of female enrolment in universities is 48.5% and this is an indicator that Jordanians invest in the education of women," she said.

Ms Samen added that the unequal pay for women is a major concern in some sectors, such as in private schools: "Male teachers are paid more than females in these schools, and the government should enforce laws to prevent this discrimination.”

Meanwhile, Ms Mustafa highlighted the political contribution of Jordanian women as another concern that should be looked at. She noted that the women's quota in Parliament should be increased, so that they can have a say in legislation concerning their rights. Currently, 15% of the 150 seats in the Lower House are allocated for women.

According to a report issued by the Department of Statistics (DoS) to mark International Women Day, on 8 March, approximately 3.1 million of the Kingdom's 6.3 million population are women.

The report showed that women's contribution to the labour market in the Kingdom was 13.2% in 2013, with 51.4% of them working in the public sector. However, according to a study conducted by the Phenix Centre last year, the rate of women's contribution to workforce stood at 12.3%, with 48% of them employed in the public sector.

Another report issued by the Higher Population Council in 2013 also showed that Jordanian women's contribution to the economy remains low, especially among married women. The study, which focused on the impact of marriage and fertility in determining women's work status, found that females constituted 14% of the workforce, up from 12.3% in 1995 and 11.5% in 1990.

Married women made up 7.4% of women's total contribution to the workforce in 2012, according to the study, which indicated that economically active females were clustered in university education careers, and in administrative and clerical professions.

Women who are economically active and who contribute to the labour force are distinguished by a group of socio-economic and cultural characteristics; such as: "Husbands with high levels of education, a high degree of urbanisation, a relatively later age of marriage, reduced actual fertility levels, and a weak consanguineous (blood relative) relationship with the husband", the report said.

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