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June 30 2022 7:06 PM ˚
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Measurements hide women’s 'real economic contribution'

Activists and studies say the discrepancy is likely worse due to the pandemic

According to the report by UN Women, the Department of Statistics’ Jordan Labor Market Panel Survey is outdated and underestimates the actual time spent by women on unpaid work. Graphic: Jordan News
According to the report by UN Women, the Department of Statistics’ Jordan Labor Market Panel Survey is outdated and underestimates the actual time spent by women on unpaid work. Graphic: Jordan News
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AMMAN — According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2021, the participation rate of women in the Jordanian labor force is 15.6 percent — a number experts believe does not reflect women’s contribution to the economy. اضافة اعلان

Salma Nims, secretary general of the Jordanian National Commission for Women, told Jordan News that this number undervalues the contribution of women to the economy of Jordan because it neglects several factors, including the value of unpaid domestic labor. 

“Women are economically active in Jordan and we know that they are actually contributing to covering the costs of living of their families, but it is not an officially recognized input,” she added.

According to her, this is also partly due to women’s work in informal sectors, such as agriculture, where women’s activity goes unrecognized. The same principle applies to female entrepreneurs with home-based businesses that are not necessarily licensed, she said. 

The major reason behind the low numbers, the secretary general explained, is unpaid domestic labor, adding that “women, in Jordan, carry all the burden of unpaid care in the household, whether they’re married or not married, whether they’re working or not working.”

She believes that this lack of recognition costs women their financial rights, especially in cases of divorce and the death of a spouse. Their input is uncalculated and, therefore, their economic autonomy cannot be guaranteed, she said.

Amani Judeh, a gender specialist at the Department of Statistics, told Jordan News that the calculated measure of women’s economic participation is based only on formal, paid labor.

“Women’s economic participation number perhaps does not reflect the actual work done by women because of unformalized labor or care work, which is uncalculated,” she said.

Judeh added that there is a cultural aspect to the issue where “women do not acknowledge their domestic work as work. They believe it is an obligation rather than a job.”

Jordanian women’s undervaluing of their own domestic labor acts as an obstacle for the department. 

“Our culture does not recognize this as work. We tried, over and over again, to collect relevant information and numbers but to no avail. We need special surveys that target the issue because general surveys of employment are not enough,” Judeh said.

The president of the Center for Women’s Studies in Jordan, Maysoon Alotoum, believes that there is a problem on the level of culture as well where “women provide all of this unpaid labor under the title of motherhood. They put (forth) all their effort and energy but it is not recognized.” 

Alotoum told Jordan News that “women do the work of a housekeeper, a chauffeur, a chef, a nurse, and a private tutor. This all goes under unpaid labor and our laws and regulations do not take it into account.”

She added that the pandemic increased domestic burdens and workload on women. 

According to the UN Women report, COVID-19 and the Care Economy, unpaid care and domestic work “remains invisible, undervalued, and neglected in economic and social policymaking, and its distribution is grossly imbalanced.”

The report stated that women’s unpaid contribution to the care sector equates to $11 trillion annually or 9 percent of global GDP.

The report added that there is “rising demand for care in the context of the COVID-19 crisis and response will likely deepen already existing inequalities in the gender division of labor, placing a disproportionate burden on women and girls.”

Another report by UN Women, The Role of the Care Economy in Promoting Gender Equality, researched women’s informal work in Arab states in 2020.

The report stated that in Jordan, “household work was women’s most common economic activity across both rural and urban areas,” which greatly contributes to the low rate of female formal labor force participation. 

It added that “the double burden of paid employment and unpaid care work is thus an important disincentive for women to enter and remain in the labor market.” 

The report broke down the issue into numbers, finding that women spent 19 hours on unpaid care work per week in 2016, in comparison to 1 hour by men. 

“Employed women thus spent an average of 57 hours per week on paid and unpaid work combined, considerably more than men, who spent on average 44 hours per week in work, the vast majority of which was paid,” the report claimed.

According to the report, the pandemic will intensify this dynamic as the demand for women’s domestic and care work increases due to “school closures, additional care needs of elderly or ill household members, and closures of services.”

The report predicted the pandemic would add an additional 18 to 24 hours per week of unpaid care for women and 1 to 3 hours for men, considering “the overwhelming responsibility for unpaid care work in Jordan lies with women.” 

Additionally, according to the report by UN Women, the Department of Statistics’ Jordan Labor Market Panel Survey is outdated and underestimates the actual time spent by women on unpaid work.

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