ILO: Youth in Jordan face difficult transition from school to decent work

Jordan’s youth face a myriad of challenges when attempting to move from education to the workplace, according to a new ILO study.

News | 21 July 2014
Working youth, otherwise without educational opportunities and from a wide range of ages, attend classes at the Social Support Center in Marka, east of Amman, Jordan. © ILO/Jared J. Kohler
AMMAN (ILO News) – Despite having good access to education, the number of youth in the labour market in Jordan is very low, especially among young women, a new ILO study finds.

The study – published in June and titledLabour market transitions of young women and men in Jordan’’ – shows that periods of transition from school to work in the country can be extremely long in Jordan. While some young people move swiftly from school to their current job, those who do not experience a direct transition take almost three years to find stable or satisfactory employment.

The study is based on a “school-to-work transition survey” conducted by Jordanian Department of Statistics, and is part of the ILO Work4Youth Project, a partnership between the ILO and The MasterCard Foundation. Jordan is one of 28 countries around the world to take part in the project.

“The report highlights an important category of society which is Jordan’s youth population, giving us accurate numbers in terms of unemployment, youth inactivity in the labour force and education levels for both sexes,” said Dr. Mohammed al-Qudah, Deputy Secretary General of the Ministry of Labour. “We will build on some of the indicators found in the survey. As you know, Jordan is facing a number of challenges in the labour market.”

The survey, which covered 5,405 young people aged between 15 to 29, found that 60 per cent of youth in Jordan are inactive, or not in the labour force. This is only partially explained by the country’s wide access to education. Young women are particularly likely to remain inactive; one-third of them are inactive and not in school.

While Jordan’s youth unemployment rate is slightly lower than other countries in the region, it still reached 24.1 per cent at the time of the survey (2012-2013) – almost twice the global average. At 41.8 per cent, the female youth unemployment rate is more than double the male youth unemployment rate of 18.7 per cent.

The study found that male youth unemployment rates drop as the level of education increases. In contrast, the unemployment rates among female youth in Jordan remain stubbornly above 40 per cent regardless of the level of education attained.

According to the study, a majority of young men and women in employment have written contracts and enjoy social benefits. However, a large number of youth work in informal jobs, earning below the average wage and working an excessive number of hours.

Ahmad Awad, director of the Phenix Centre for Economic and Informatics Studies (PCEIS), said the high percentage of those in the informal economy is expected due to the high youth unemployment rate in the country. “New graduates who do not find work in the field they are qualified in look for alternative mechanisms, which are either through learning a new skill or finding work in the informal economy,” Awad said. “Finding work in the informal economy is the easier option because the informal economy is very big. It may even be tempting for them to join the informal economy because they can receive good wages and do not have to pay taxes.”

The ILO lauded efforts of the government to facilitate the transition from school to work for youth, but also said that more needs to be done to address unemployment, skills mismatch and decent work deficits in the country.

“The results of this survey tell us that there is much work to be done in order to realise the aspirations of Jordan’s youth,” said Frank Hagemman, ILO Deputy Regional Director for Arab States. “We know that all our partners in Jordan who helped put together this Survey are engaged in trying to meet those aspirations. We at the ILO are here to assist them and Jordan’s youth in their transition from the classroom to decent work.”

Key figures from the report:

  • Employment rate of young men: 47.2 per cent
  • Employment rate of young women: 11.2 per cent
  • Youth who have completed the transition to stable and/or satisfactory employment: 28.8 per cent
  • Youth who have not yet started the transition: 52.2 per cent
  • Transited youth who moved directly from education to stable and/or satisfactory employment: 33.5 per cent
  • Share of young workers in informal employment: 53.2 per cent
  • Share of young employees with no written contract: 34.0 per cent
  • Youth unemployment rate: 24.1 per cent
  • Share of unemployed youth searching for work for one year or longer: 55.8 per cent
  • Male youth unemployment rate: 18.7 per cent
  • Female youth unemployment rate: 41.8 per cent
  • Unemployment rate of youth with primary education: 23.5 per cent
  • Unemployment rate of youth with university education: 28.1 per cent