The Composition of Labor Supply and its Evolution from 2010 to 2016 in Jordan

Ragui Assaad, Caroline Krafft, and Caitlyn Keo

Economic Research Forum Working Paper Series, No. 1183, April 2018


This paper examines trends in labor force participation, unemployment and employment in Jordan between 2010 and 2016, in the context of large inflows of Syrian refugees as well as rapid increases in educational attainment among Jordanians. The analysis is based on data from the Jordan Labor Market Panel Surveys (JLMPS) of 2010 and 2016 supplemented with annual data from the Jordanian Employment and Unemployment Survey for the intervening years. Key findings:

  • There has been a large increase in the working age population in Jordan since 2010 due to both the increase in the Jordanian population as well as the growth in the refugee and migrant population. The population increased by 50 percent and the working age population increased by 60 percent. More than 50 percent of this increase was due to the influx of Syrian refugees coupled with the continued growth in the number of migrant workers.
  • The average level of education declined slightly due to the influx of less educated Syrians.
  • Labor force participation rates declined for both Jordanians as well as for refugees and migrants. Labor force participation rates among Jordanians declined from 43 percent in 2010 to 39 percent in 2016. Participation among Jordanian men declined from 70 percent in 2010 to 63 percent in 2016, across all age groups but especially among men aged 35-55. Participation among Jordanian women stagnated at 17 percent despite the rapid increase in their education levels; participation rates fell for the most educated women. Participation rates declined the most among Syrian men who were primarily migrant workers in 2010 (participating at 92 percent) and were mostly refugees in 2016 (participating at 44 percent).
  • Employment rates for Jordanians, already at very low levels in comparison to other countries, have declined substantially for both men and women. Employment rates among Jordanian men of working age fell from 64 percent to 55 percent. Employment rates among Jordanian women declined from 14 percent to 11 percent. Employment rates among Syrian men in Jordan fell from 88 percent to 36 percent, reflecting the shift from migrant workers to refugees.
  • Declining employment rates were partly accommodated through rising unemployment rates, but also through declining participation rates, as discouragement and early withdrawal from the labor force increased. Unemployment rates among Jordanians increased from 11 percent to 18 percent (more rapidly for women).