The Structure of Employment and Job Creation in Jordan 2010-2016

Ragui Assaad and Colette Salemi

Economic Research Forum Working Paper Series, No. 1259 (2018)


This paper examines trends in the structure of employment and job creation in Jordan from 2010 to 2016, in the context of declining rates of employment growth due to a slowdown in economic growth, the influx of large numbers of Syrian refugees, and the growth in the migrant worker population. The analysis is based on data from the Jordan Labor Market Panel Surveys (JLMPS) of 2010 and 2016. Key findings:

  • Syrians accounted for only a fifth of the non-Jordanian workforce in 2016. Non-Jordanian workers comprised 31 percent of total employment in Jordan 2016. The non-Jordanian workforce was composed of Egyptians (54 percent), Syrians (20 percent), and other Arabs (20 percent), mostly non-nationalized Palestinians and Iraqi nationals. The authors estimate that 50-70 percent of net job growth in Jordan over the period 2010 to 2016 has been contributed by non-Jordanian workers.
  • Employment rates declined for Jordanians and non-Jordanians. The employment rate for Jordanians (aged 15 and over) declined from 36 percent in 2010 to 30 percent in 2016, and there was also a sharp decline in employment rates among non-Jordanians, from 46 percent to 32 percent, reflecting the increasing share of refugees versus migrants in the non-Jordanian population.
  • Public sector employment among Jordanians increased from 39 percent in 2010 to 42 percent in 2016 (although this trend appears to have reversed in more recent data). Within the public sector, demand for teachers and health workers has increased, partly as the result of the need to provide services to a growing number of refugees, which has mostly benefited Jordanian women.
  • Employment became more precarious for the poorest, least educated Jordanian workers. Unskilled Jordanian males shifted out of informal regular wage employment into irregular work as well as non-employment. They have not managed to increase their chances of public sector employment like other groups.
  • The transition from school to work is very protracted, with a large fraction of youth remaining in NEET for an extended period of time. Nearly 36 percent of young men and 90 percent of young women in NEET in 2010 had not transitioned to employment by 2016.
  • Non-Jordanians are mostly employed informally and are increasingly concentrated in sectors that are highly dependent on cheap, flexible labor to stay competitive, such as agriculture.
  • Informality among private wage workers varies substantially by nationality (32 percent of Jordanians, 86 percent of Syrians, 75 percent of Egyptians and 70 percent among other nationalities).