5 years on and some progress, gender pay gap remains ‘vast’

Marwa Alomari and her children at her home in Irbid, Jordan, April 1, 2021. For the past 10 years, the country has sat near the bottom of the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, which tracks gaps between women and men in employment, education, health and politics. (Photo: NYTimes)
AMMAN — Despite a 2015 pledge to close the gender equality gap by 2030, women’s rights activists have recently told Jordan News that the country continues to fail women, who make up almost half the country’s population.اضافة اعلان

The pledge, which was to be carried out by the Ministry of Labor and Jordanian National Commission for Women (JNCW), was meant to ultimately end discrimination against women through legal protections, economic empowerment, social liberation, and educational development.

Gender experts believe that there has been some progress with the National Committee for Pay Equity amending five articles of the Labor Law in 2019 related to equal treatment, access to daycare, nondiscriminatory pay, maternity protection, harassment, and several other issues. However, many obstacles remain.

Secretary-General of JNCW Salma Nims shed light on the economic challenges that women continue to face. In an interview with Jordan News, she stated that “Women’s economic participation and autonomy is still a major challenge in Jordan.”

According to a study by the International Labor Organization (ILO), “the gender gap in Jordan’s labor force participation resulted in a loss of $8 billion in the value of GDP in 2018.” That gap was 77 per cent in 2020, according to the World Economic Forum’s GlobalGender Gap Report of 2021.

The situation is “unfortunate”, Reem Aslan, a technical gender expert at the International Labor Organization (ILO), told Jordan News in an interview. The economic participation of women continues to hover around 14 percent, despite a decent amount of funds and support dedicated to narrowing the gender gap, according to Aslan. 

“We need to show how women’s economic participation can impact the family, the company, and then the GDP,” she added.

A report released in March by the Department of Statistics (DoS) showed that the rate of unemployment in the fourth quarter of 2020 increased 8.7 percent for females and 4.9 percent for males, compared to the fourth quarter of 2019.

A 2020 report by UNESCO noted that Jordan has “one of the lowest employment rates for women worldwide.” It also shows the Kingdom falling well short of its 2030 goal if women’s economic participation continues on its current trajectory.

Experts attributed these figures to a number of root causes, including societal perceptions and government policies that reinforce traditional gender roles.

Deemah Alkharabsheh, senior camp assistant with UN Women, told Jordan News that decision-making processes often exclude women, particularly in the public sector. She added that despite proving themselves, very few women have been given the opportunity to rise to leadership roles and executive positions.

“The decision-makers continue to involve women at a low rate in governmental teams and top managerial positions,” Alkharabsheh said.

There is a “lack of incentives from the government to facilitate women’s integration into the labor market, such as through increased access to credit, improved transportation, and the creation of gender-responsive workplace environments,” Better Work Jordan said in its Gender Strategy 2019-2022 report.

Nims also told Jordan News that a major step towards fulfilling the 2015 pledge would be to uphold reliable human resources management systems.

“We need to work towards closing the gender gap. We need to create safe work environments. And that’s why the implementation of policies to protect women from harassment and violence and discrimination within the work environment is a very important direction at the policy level,” Nims said.

She added that with equal treatment and equal opportunities, women would be encouraged to enter the workforce, explaining that it is up to businesses and lawmakers to recognize women’s input and implement policies against gender discrimination.