Employment program hailed as ambitious, but only if economy grows

2. PM National Employment
Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh (left) and State Minister for Media Affairs Faisal Shboul speak at a press conference at the Prime Ministry on April 3, 2022. (Photo: Petra)
AMMAN — The National Employment Program launched by Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh at a press conference on Sunday was met with both optimism and skepticism by economists and businesspeople. اضافة اعلان

The program is set to create 60,000 sustainable job opportunities in the private sector in 2022 to combat the high unemployment rate amongst Jordanians, which stands at 23.2 percent.

The government allocated JD80 million for the program; it will directly subsidize wages of workers covered by the program at a value of JD150 per month for six months, provided that the work contract is valid for at least one year.

On December 22, 2021, the World Bank approved $112 million in financing to support the government's efforts to stimulate the private sector by creating job opportunities for Jordanians, train them in skills required for work, and reduce high unemployment rates.

Director-General of the Jordanian Businessmen Association Tariq Hijazi told Jordan News that “the program is ambitious, but while such programs would help combat the high unemployment rate, currently there is no supply of job opportunities.”

"The issue is that we do not have real job opportunities, which is the reason for the high unemployment rate. It is not that the private sector does not want to hire people. The reality is that the current state of the economy does not allow for creating new jobs," Hijazi said.

“Even if this big number is employed now, if the economy does not grow next year, we will end up with 60,000 unemployed people once their one-year contract ends,” he said.

While he lauded the subsidy of JD150 per month, he said the private sector searches for qualified people to do the jobs they are assigned to do.

Hijazi said that the government needs to stimulate the economy through a strategic plan that creates jobs. Such a plan must be carried out in coordination with universities, which should guide or even force students to study majors required by the job market, since the country is saturated with graduates of graphic design, accounting, and more, he added.

Hijazi stressed that the private sector cannot create job opportunities if there is no demand and no place to grow businesses.

Economic adviser and former president of the Banks Association Adli Kandah told Jordan News that the number of people the government is planning to employ is great and will positively reflect on the economy and unemployment rates, adding that the JD150 subsidy by the government will act as an incentive for the private sector.

Kandah expressed hope that the program will be realistic and applicable. For this to happen, there is need of "collaboration with the private sector, creating sustainable jobs, and real commitment," he said.

He noted that the Labor Ministry should act as a coordinator for the private sector and other ministries, to determine what each sector needs in terms of jobs.

"Businesses should be able to expand and grow to create new job opportunities, and this can only be done if the local demand grows, if we have opportunities to export or if we have new investments that our economy needs," Kandah said.

Economic analyst Mazen Irsheid told Jordan News that the initiative is positive and practical. He noted that this program is different and has a better chance of being implemented than programs from previous years.

According to Irsheid, this initiative will help reduce the burden on the public sector, where employment is one of the highest in the world, “standing at 40 percent when it should be around 20 percent”.

"The private sector should steer the wheel and reduce the pressure on the public sector since thousands of people have been waiting for their turn to be employed through the Civil Service Bureau," Irsheid.

Political economy specialist Zayan Zawaneh told Jordan News that he hopes this program is successful. However, he recalled the many problems government employment programs had in previous years.

Zawaneh added that the Ministry of Labor should not be the only one required to address unemployment. He said that this issue is the responsibility of the entire government, which should focus on vocational and university education, technical skills for job-seekers, and ways to attract foreign and local investments.

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