By Nadia Hashem
All around the world women are fighting for their equal rights and to be treated fairly socially and academically. Jordan is considered to be one of the leading countries in the Arab world that is doing a good job towards achieving equality between the two sexes.
In Jordan women form a high percentage in education, but they contribute 14% to the labor market! Why? Due to gaps in certain laws; including labor law.
There are constitutional provisions that affirm Jordanian citizens’ basic rights to education: Article 20, in fact, makes elementary education required for all Jordanian and free of charge in public, government schools. This provision is elaborated on and reinforced in the Education Act.
The Jordanian government spends more than 5% on education every year and has had positive results. Since 1980, the literacy rate in Jordan has increased from 69.2% to 91% in 2002. With a female literacy rate of 85.9%, Jordan has the highest female literacy rate in the Middle East.
So, while the majority of Jordanian women are both literate and well educated, the differences in career expectations based on gender stem from cultural practices and not the fact that women are not as capable as men.
There are constitutional provisions that affirm Jordanian citizens’ basic rights to work and there is nothing in Islam that forbids women from doing so. The Constitution states, “Work is the right of all citizens,” “Jobs are based on capability,” and “All Jordanians are equal before the law. There will be no discrimination between Jordanians regarding rights and duties based on race, language or religion.”
The Labor Laws clarify the Constitution further: “By Jordanians are meant both men and women. The Labor Code defines a worker/laborer/employee as “each person, male or female, who performs a job in return for wages”. The constitution asserts that the government “shall ensure work and education within the limits of its possibilities, and it shall ensure a state of tranquility and equal opportunities to all Jordanians.” Work is “the right of every citizen,” and “the State shall provide opportunities for work to all citizens by directing the national economy and raising its standards.” Jordanian labor laws protect women from losing their jobs.
Unemployment, underemployment, differences in wages and occupational segregation are the four main factors in the economy that impact women’s level of labor In terms of unemployment, 15% of men are unemployed while 25% of women are unemployed and 82% of young women ages 15–29 are unemployed.
Wage discrimination in Jordan is no different than it is anywhere else in the world cultural factors – like being responsible for the private sphere (the family and the home) – lower ranking jobs and cannot break through to the higher levels. Horizontal segregation occurs when certain occupations are more female intensive. For example, more Jordanian men are civil servants and fill high-ranking positions while Jordanian women are concentrated in middle ranking jobs. The consequences of women’s limited economic advancement and low female participation in the workforce lead to low utilization of national production capacity. The greatest challenge to incorporating women equally into the workplace is overcoming traditional attitudes towards women and their expected duties as mothers and wives. A change in attitude will inevitably lead to the changing of “gendered laws” and the role of women as homemakers.
Nadia Hashem was the first woman State Minister for Woman Affairs in Jordan, she is a politician, a journalist, a poet and most of all an inspiration working hard on making a difference with a mission to empower women, currently she is Head of Women Empowerment Team at Economic Development Forum EPDF