Improved gender gap ranking ‘does not reflect reality’

Gender gap
Women demand constitutional changes to ensure gender equality during a protest in front of Parliament on September 11, 2011. (Photo: Saher Qaddorah/JNews)
AMMAN — Jordan’s improved standing in the Global Gender Gap Report of 2021 does not reflect the reality of Jordanian women, gender experts say.

The report, which was published by the World Economic Forum at the end of March, ranks Jordan as the 131st out of 156 countries, compared to 138th in the two preceding years. Taken at face value, the higher rank might suggest that the gender gap has improved in Jordan.اضافة اعلان

However, Salma Nims, secretary-general of the Jordanian National Commission for Women (JNCW), justifies this change in ranking by explaining that two new countries were added to the report, Afghanistan and Niger, and were ranked below Jordan.

She added that eight countries; New Guinea, Algeria, Turkey, Bahrain, Nigeria, India, Qatar, and Kuwait, regressed in ranking. This, according to Nims, means that Jordan did not actually improve. “We can’t be happy our rank improved because other countries regressed,” she said in an interview with Jordan News.

The report also shows a positive score change of 0.015, reaching 0.638. This value is an average of scores given across indices of gender inclusion in education, health, politics, and economy. 

Jordan’s educational attainment score is at 0.991 with a rank of 84, which is the same score it was granted the previous year. 

Former member of Parliament Wafa Bani Mustafa tells Jordan News that this is “good news”, considering the difficult circumstances caused by the pandemic. 

Nims, on the other hand, says that the score of education stayed the same due to the fact that numbers are based on enrolment and do not include school dropouts. 

In terms of health and survival, Jordan scored 0.957 and ranked at 145. The number, according to Bani Mustafa, decreased a bit from the previous year. 

“We dropped from 103 to 145 in one year, putting us in the bottom eleven. This is the first time Jordan sees such low levels in terms of health and we are working on catching up and returning to our previous state,” the MP said. 

The Kingdom’s scores for political empowerment saw a great decline. It currently ranks 144 with a score of 0.066.

Nims says that this was based on the results of the parliamentary elections in Jordan and the decrease in the number of women in ministerial positions. 

Bani Mustafa has also emphasized this “huge deterioration” in political representation of women. She pointed out that the number of women is very low in the parliament and current government. 

Muna Abbas, Plan International’s country director, said that the reality of life in Jordan, where women’s political participation is “very limited”, speaks louder than the index. Jordan, according to Abbas, is behind in political empowerment and economic participation, and there is a lack of incentives for women. 

Jordan’s score for economic participation and opportunity is what draws the most concern, according to Nims. Jordan jumped one full point, receiving a 0.538 score with a rank of 133.

She attributes the increase in the score of economic participation and opportunity to the percentage of women in managerial positions. Women make up 62 percent of managerial positions, according to the Department of Statistics (DoS).

Nims states that the DoS included all middle managers, department heads and school principals in its calculations. 

“This explains why the score for economic participation and opportunity increased. But when looking at top managerial positions in Jordan, it does not reach seven percent,” the Nims explained.

Reem Aslan, technical gender expert at the International Labor Organization (ILO), said that “labor force participation remains a challenge for Jordan.”

Aslan told Jordan News that the one full percentage point Jordan gained in 2020 was due to the number of female legislators, senior officials, and managers, which was not assessed the previous year. 

She also added that education is a highly feminized sector, possibly skewing the results of the report.

“Removing female school and kindergarten principals from the sample reveals that only 2.7 percent of women work in non-education sectors as junior and senior managers,” said ILO Gender Equality Senior Specialist and Coordinator of Jordan Decent Work Country Program Frida Khan, in a formal statement by the ILO.

“This suggests that women are actually underrepresented in managerial positions, at a rate even lower than their already limited labor participation rate,” Khan said.

The ILO has released a statement warning against taking data out of context. 

Breaking down each criterion shows that “in actuality, the score of Jordan does not show real change or improvement,” Nims said.

Bani Mustafa also said that Jordan lacks a holistic understanding of the issue of women and gender.

“We need to determine a clear approach that considers our priorities and achieves our demands.”

“The issue is not an issue of rank. It is important to compare our score as a country with our own score. The numbers should not be taken out of our national context when analyzed,” Secretary-General Nims concluded.
The social standing of women, on the level of politics and the household, is still the same, according to Abbas. She said that “men have the upper hand, by law and by customs.”

She also referred to the report, which states that the Middle East, as a region, needs 146 years to close the gender gap. Though Abbas acknowledged the instability facing the region, she recognized the urgency of Jordan investing in women through policies and legislations.