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‘Unemployment is home made’

Feb 05,2017 - Last updated at Feb 05,2017

The latest data on unemployment during the fourth quarter of 2016 shows that the rate stood at 15.8 per cent, compared to 15.9 per cent in the previous quarter.

This means that unemployment has stabilised, but at a very high level not reached at any time in the last 10 years.

It might stay there for the foreseeable future, unless some radical measures are taken.

Looking at the annual unemployment average, which was 15.3 per cent in 2016 against 13.1 per cent in 2015, one sees a 2.2-percentage-point difference, a substantial deterioration that calls for action.

I will delve on the latest rate of unemployment because it is a fact with which we have to deal.

The rising rate of unemployment should not surprise anybody. 

The Jordan labour market is wide open to non-Jordanian workers.

The number of Egyptians and Syrians working in Jordan exceeds the number of the unemployed Jordanians.

Recently a new factor came into play, i.e., the influx of Syrian refugees, who are officially encouraged to take jobs.

They enjoy substantial incentives and exemptions from the authorities, in order to comply with the European conditions aiming at keeping the Syrian refugees in Jordan permanently, to prevent them from emigrating to Europe.

No industrial company can export to the European market unless it employs at least 15 per cent Syrian labourers. The percentage is to later rise to 25 per cent.

In the series of regular statistics, it is evident that the rate of unemployment was rising steadily during 2016 from one quarter to another, an indication that the problem was worsening.

It is not credible that the rate did not rise in the fourth quarter of 2016 despite the fact that the last quarter of the year usually witnesses the lowest level of economic activity due to the bad weather.

Statistics show that the unemployment rate among men is 13.8 per cent and among women 24.5 per cent.

In other words, one in every seven young men and one in every four women are looking for jobs but not finding any.

In the US, unemployment at this time is only 4.7 per cent, yet, the new president, Donald Trump, declared an emergency and took heavy measures to protect local jobs and keep them for American labourers.

He ordered illegal labourers expelled, closed borders and withdrew from international trade agreements thought to cause American jobs to move abroad.

In Jordan, the rate of unemployment exceeds three times the American rate, yet our government believes that the state of affairs is normal and that it can go on with its open-door policy required by the European Union as a condition to receive the meagre aid or to allow some Jordanian exports to enter the EU market.

We lived with the Egyptian labourers for long, first because they are temporary: the presence of any Egyptian in the country can be terminated at any time; and second, because they are engaged mainly in agriculture and construction, where Jordanian labourers do not like to go. 

In contrast, the Syrian labourers cannot return to their country, and take jobs from Jordanian labourers by accepting lower wages and longer working hours.

The last government that opened the borders to unlimited and unrestricted Syrian emigrants is responsible, and the present government that follows the European guidance is equally responsible.

 

Unemployment in Jordan is 100 per cent home made.

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