Equal pay

Gender Pay Discrimination in Jordan: A Call for Change

The International Labour Organization is working with the Jordanian government and its social partners to help narrow the pay gap between men and women.

Feature | 22 May 2013
AMMAN (ILO News) – When Amira*, a Jordanian schoolteacher, asked her principal for a pay rise, it was refused. A few months later she was fired.

“The official reasons given for my dismissal were weak. I’m sure they wanted to punish me for asking for a fair wage for my work,” she says.

I only received a rise of around three per cent, while my male colleagues received seven per cent."
Banan* works for a media company and complains she is paid at least 30 per cent less than her male colleagues for performing the same job.

“Everyone was given a pay increase but I only received a rise of around three per cent, while my male employees received seven per cent. When I pointed out this disparity to my manager, I was told it was deliberate and that a married woman’s place is at home with her children,” Banan explains.

These stories provide a snapshot of the discrimination faced by many women in Jordan’s labour market – despite the fact that the country has ratified the ILO Equal Remuneration Convention, No. 100 and the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, No. 111.

A wide pay gap

Men working in Jordan’s private sector earn on average 41 per cent more than women. In the public sector, men earn about 28 per cent more. According to official figures, the pay gap in manufacturing is 41.3 per cent; in health and social work, 27.9 per cent and 24.5 per cent in education.

Discrimination also extends to non-wage benefits such as health insurance and paid expenses – which many women are not entitled to. In addition, many employers do not provide maternity leave, forcing women to take long career breaks, leading them to fall behind in pay and promotion.

“The problem of pay discrimination is a social problem where society does not see women’s contribution to the labour market to be on the same level or importance as that of men,” says Jordanian National Commission for Women (JNCW) Secretary General, Asma Khader.

The ILO has been working with the Ministry of Labour on the issue of pay equity since 2010. As a result, a National Steering Committee on Pay Equity (NSCPE) was launched in 2011, with representation from government, the JNCW, trade unions, professional associations, employers, civil society groups, women’s research centres and the media.

Its aim is to promote the principle of equal pay for work of equal value and to take the lead in developing and implementing an action plan for pay equity.

“The NSCPE’s promotion of pay equity will enhance the participation of women in the labour market under equitable conditions,” explains Reem Aslan, the ILO’s National Pay Equity Consultant in Jordan.

Legislation change

The committee has been reviewing Jordan’s national laws, and in collaboration with the ILO commissioned an in-depth study, which examined the gender pay gap in Jordan’s private education sector. It found that men earn 41.6 per cent more in private schools and 23.1 per cent more in private universities.

The report said the discrepancies were due to a number of factors, including a tradition of undervaluing women’s jobs and qualifications, social and cultural factors and the absence of national laws.

Increasing women’s participation and promotion in the labour market ... is a great priority for the Ministry of Labour."
Abeer Al-Akhras of the Jordanian Teachers Syndicate believes part of the problem is a lack of awareness about the issue: “The individual herself sometimes doesn’t know her rights in the law and accepts everything.”

The government says it is determined to tackle the issue.

“Increasing women’s participation and promotion in the labour market, and improving women’s prospects is a great priority for the Ministry of Labour,’’ says Labour Ministry Secretary General Hamada Abu Nejmeh.

Maher al-Mahrouq, the general director at Jordan Chamber of Industry, also says change is needed.

“From the point of view of the private sector, particularly the industrial sector, this pay gap is unacceptable. In light of the constitution and labour law, we strive to reach a just and equal level for everyone in terms of pay. What is important is productivity, regardless of the gender.”

The NSCPE has recommended changes to be made in national legislation to reinforce the principle of equal remuneration for work of equal value. It hosted a symposium on the issue in Amman on May 19.

“It is important that all stakeholders work together to lobby legislators for the amendment of national legislation,” says Aslan of the ILO. “Employers need to be encouraged to adopt gender neutral salary scales and unions should be supported in collective bargaining and women encouraged to negotiate and claim their right to equal pay.’’

* Names have been changed.

Towards equal pay for work of equal value in Jordan

Reporting on ILO's activities to promote the principle of equal pay for work of equal value in Jordan, this video presents a real life case of a teacher who left the private education sector due to issues of gender pay discrimination which she faced.