How Jordan's COVID19 Measures Are Crushing Women's Participation in the Workplace

Published October 22nd, 2020 - 11:25 GMT
How Jordan's COVID19 Measures Are Crushing Women's Participation in the Workplace
The Minister of Institutional Performance Development, Rabaa Al-Ajarma, issued a new decision that enables working mothers to work from home until daycares are open again. (Twitter: @AljaziJordan)

Despite a successful government approach to avoid a community spread of COVID-19 prior to August 2020, Jordan has unfortunately slid into a sharp spike in cases over the last two months, recent decisions taken by the Jordanian government to curb the spread of the virus seem to have ignored some social realities, especially those related to women.

There is a discussion that the two-month lockdown imposed in Jordan and elsewhere around the world has severely impacted the economy, which has urged the government to think of other approaches that can both contain the spread of the pandemic and maintain the already fragile economy.

In Jordan, the government has resorted to weekend curfews and closures of schools, universities, and places of worship, hoping that this will stop "unnecessary" social gatherings. However, the most recent decision of closing daycares that have played a crucial role in allowing Jordanian women more space to work in different industries, has been discouraging to many women and families.

As soon as the government decision of closing daycares was announced last Tuesday, Jordanians started campaigning online in rejection of the announcement, demanding government answers on what working mothers should do to continue in their daily jobs while taking care of their toddlers; warning that this decision might have a huge negative impact on women and the Jordanian society at large.

Only the next morning, dozens of women, daycares owners, and activists took to the streets near the Ministry of Social Development headquarters in Amman, expressing their rejection of the recent measures and calling on the government to provide other solutions that allow women to keep their jobs.

Translation: "Working mothers and daycares owners in front of the Ministry of Social Development, in rejection of the decision to close daycares."

On Wednesday, the Minister of Institutional Performance Development, Rabaa Al-Ajarma, issued a new decision that enables working mothers to work from home until daycares are open again, a decision that can help many women, but still doesn't provide women working in industries where working from home isn't an option with a solution.

For many decades, Jordanian women have launched many social and legal campaigns demanding more equal rights in the workplace, including minimizing the pay gap that remains a major issue in the country. 

Not only do the latest measures endanger women's financial independence, social status, or mental health, they also further deepen the striking gender-gap between Jordanian men and women despite all the progress that has been taking place in recent years.

Responding to the public demand, the Jordanian government announced on Thursday that it will leave the decision on whether to reopen daycares or not to the Ministry of Social Development, which can evaluate the safety measures taken by each organization and facilitate their daily work accordingly, which has been considered a victory for women.

According to a 2015 study by UNDP, "employers in Jordan are much more likely to invest in building the skills and capacities of their male employees instead of their female counterparts, as they view their development as more long-lasting and sustainable for their firms."

UNESCO-UNEVOC has also reported that despite Jordanian laws emphasizing equal pay for men and women in the public sector, "females working in the private sector in Jordan earn 41% less than their male counterparts."

Meanwhile, World Bank data points out that the rate of female participation in the job market in Jordan has remained around 14% during 2020, which is an extremely low figure.

Do you think the Jordanian government was right to close daycares the way it did with schools and universities? What are Jordanian women supposed to do to overcome this obstacle and maintain their jobs during this hard time?


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