Experts confirmed that the repercussions of the COVID-19 and the related defense orders issued by the government at the beginning of the pandemic not only caused many workers to lose their jobs and have their wages reduced, but it also cast a shadow on the availability of job opportunities for young people.
All this deepened the challenges that young people face in entering the labor market, as the available work opportunities now are even narrower than they were before, and many of their dreams were shattered, especially since the unemployment rates in Jordan during the second quarter of 2020 reached 23 percent, registering 42 to 58 percent among youth, representing record levels compared to historical unemployment rates in Jordan.
The above mentioned topic was discussed yesterday in an online dialogue session held by the Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies, in order to discuss a position paper titled “The Impact of COVID-19 on Young People in the Jordanian Labor Market”, as part of a series of specialized sessions on “COVID-19 and the Labor Market” that the Center is implementing with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation.
The session was attended by a number of experts from many formal and informal institutions working in youth and employment issues. The paper presented by the Director of the Phenix Center, Mr. Ahmad Awad, showed that the COVID-19 created new challenges in the labor market, represented by the loss of thousands of existing jobs due to the recession that the Jordanian economy entered, and the significant decline in wage levels, which naturally led to higher unemployment rates, especially among young people.
Mr. Awad referred to the obstacles that conflict with young men and women’ choices, the most important of which include the economic and labor policies that have been implemented in Jordan over the past decades, contractionary financial policies and unfair tax policies that have weakened the capabilities of the Jordanian economy to generate new job opportunities, in addition to the major imbalances in the education policies in Jordan.
The paper called for a review of the economic policies, a move towards implementing an expansionary fiscal policy through increasing capital investment, and a review of education policies, in order to expand intermediate, technical and vocational education and reduce university education. The paper also called for the improvement of working conditions in the private sector by expanding the coverage of the social security system to include all wage workers in Jordan, by ensuring the application of labor standards through the active role of trade unions, and by developing inspection systems in the Ministry of Labor and the Social Security Corporation.
In this context, Ghadeer Al-Khuffash, Director of the Education for Employment Foundation, spoke about the need to shed light on the difficulties and challenges that young women face in the labor market. She mentioned two main issues, including the challenges faced by working mothers under the period of school closure and distance education for their children, and the sexual harassment in the transportations and workplaces.
The participants in the session stressed the importance of modifying the educational system in order to redistribute the deep unbalance between the young people enrolled in university education and those enrolled in intermediate and vocational education, which happened because of the facilities provided by private universities, and the expansion of the parallel program in public universities.
The participants focused as well on the need to educate young people about the saturated university specialties that exhausted all means to be revitalized, and direct them to specializations that have a future in the labor market. Some pointed to the many challenges that young people with disabilities face in the labor market, and the need to present practical plans for their integration into the labor market, in addition to establishing a fund to support youth’s entrepreneurial projects in all governorates of the Kingdom.
The session also discussed the challenges caused by the COVID-19 on the labor market and its impact on the TVET system in Jordan. The participants stated the need to improve the government’s measures to deal with the economic effects of this crisis, underlining again that the current crisis shows the urgent need to change the entire work system and economic sectors in Jordan, in addition to the education and TVET systems, which can contribute significantly to alleviating unemployment rates.
Participants stressed the need to enhance the participation of the private sector in developing technical education and skills for employment, and the need for young people to compensate for the lack of knowledge and capabilities acquired in educational institutions by training themselves on the skills and knowledge necessary for effective participation in the labor market. The participants also pointed out that one of the reasons for the reluctance of young people to join professional specialties is society’s mainstream inferior view of these specializations and their workers, and the lack of professional preparation that vocational education institutions offer, stressing the importance of awareness-raising on the selection of specializations in line with the needs of the labor market since the early stages of school education.