The health sector in Jordan achieved significant progress over the past decade. Notwithstanding, a number of health-risks harm the health status of young people. Especially young women, youth in rural areas, and youth with disabilities suffer from inadequate health provision and poor access to health facilities. Despite significant improvements, prevailing gender disparities thwart the health prospects of female youth. One out of ten women is married before the age of 18, the adolescent fertility rate in 2011 was 27.1 per 1,000 women aged 15-19, while nearly all pregnant women deliver with the assistance of skilled medical personnel. The maternal mortality rate fell from 110 in 1990 to 63 per 100,000 live births in 2010. Many young people in Jordan are vulnerable to high-risk behaviour, including substance abuse, unhealthy nutrition, and reckless traffic behaviour. The rate of smoking among youth is increasing, with rates reaching 34.1% for male and 19.4% for female youth. Moreover, many of young Jordanians have insufficient knowledge about sexual and reproductive health, compounded by limited access to adequate services. Even though HIV/AIDS prevalence is low in Jordan, and the use of modern contraception is widespread, increasing risk behaviour among disadvantaged youth groups raise the probability of a spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
Young people in Jordan enjoy good access to education – In 2011, the primary net enrolment rate was 98.2% for young men and 96.9% for young women, the secondary net enrolment rate was 86.5% for males and 89.4% for females. Jordan made significant progress in achieving gender parity in schools as illustrated by a youth literacy rate of 99% for both genders. Despite high enrolment rates and the success of gender parity, there is the need to improve both the quality and relevance of education to enhance learning outcomes that prepare graduates for the demands of the labour market. Out-dated curricula, a lack of well-trained teaching personnel and inadequate school facilities are among the main barriers to educational quality. Moreover, social inequalities in terms of access to higher education continue to be persistent for youth from poor households. Economic factors are the central reasons for students to drop out of school – young men are predominately affected by the steady rise of drop-out rates.
Jordan has one of the highest unemployment rates in the MENA region – Young people are disproportionately affected by both un- and underemployment. Almost one third (27.2%) of the youth is unemployed, while informal and unpaid family work is pervasive. Even though access to education has improved impressively over the last decades, an increased level of educational attainment does not translated into higher employment opportunities. In contrast, labour market participation among high-skilled youth is particularly low; young graduates are likely to face an average labour market transition of three years. Gender disparities are persistent, young women are especially vulnerable to unemployment, more than two-thirds are outside the labour market. Jordan's economy is thwarted by at least three structural problems, explaining the persistence of high youth unemployment. First, the mismatch between education outputs and the skills required by the labour market cause high unemployment among university graduates. Second, the inability of both the private and public sector to absorb new market labour entrants and to create more decent jobs. Third, lacking access to and quality of national programs that facilitate a smooth school-to-work transition, including vocational training and career guidance. In consequence, Jordan is negatively affected by a great extend of emigration of its educational elite, resulting in brain drain.
The key document related to youth issues in Jordan is the National Youth Strategy 2005-2009, drafted in cooperation of governmental, non-governmental and international organizations. The vision of the Strategy is to „raise and develop Jordanian young men and women who are aware of themselves and their abilities, loyal to their country and proactively take part in its progress and development, able to deal with the variables and developments of this age in a confident, aware and steadfast manner, within a secure and supporting environment.” The nine priority areas of intervention are: 1) participation, 2) civil rights and citizenship, 3) recreational activity and leisure time, 4) culture and information, 5) information technology and globalisation, 6) education and training, 7) employment, 8) health, and 9) environment. The Strategy expired in 2009; there is no information available, whether it will be renewed or replaced.
In addition, the Jordanian National Charter of 1990 highlights the role of youth: „Youth constitute both the future of society and its renewable human wealth. The state must draw up policies and national programmes aimed at harnessing the resources of the country’s youth, qualifying them for responsibility, productive work, innovation and creativity, protecting them from delinquency and directing their creative energies towards constructive development.“
The Higher Council for Youth (HCY) is responsible for youth affairs in Jordan, including the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the National Youth Strategy. Since it replaced the previous Ministry for Youth in 2001, the HCY has the status of a ministry itself. It collaborates with other ministries, civil societies and relevant stakeholders like as young people. In addition to formulation and development of youth policies, the Council also regulates and manages youth clubs, youth organisations, youth centres and programs for talented and disadvantaged youth.
In Jordan, a number of associations and NGOs are actively dealing with youth. There are four different categories of organisations: 1) royal non-governmental organisations like the Jordan River Foundation headed by Queen Rania Al-Abdullah, 2) secular, national non-governmental organisations like the Youth Spirit Center or the Jordan Youth Exchange Group, 3) international organisations like the EU Euromed Youth Programme and 4) religious, charitable organisations. The main areas of engagement are non-formal education, volunteering and community service, and promotion of active youth participation.
The Jordan Youth Innovation Forum (JYIF) is the main national youth culture organisation in Jordan, which aims to “increase the youth active participation in the development process“ through the promotion of national and international volunteering, leadership, cultural interaction, civic and political participation, and youth work. Since its establishment in 2004, the JYIF comprises about 40 youth associations and recruited over 1,500 volunteers.
Economic Research Forum (2012): Demographics, Labor Force Participation and Unemployment in Jordan.
Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (2009): Population and Development Report. Youth in the ESCWA Region: Situation Analysis and Implications for Development Policies.
Education for All Global Monitoring Report (2012): Education in Jordan.
European Union (2009): Studies on Youth Policies in the Mediterranean Partner Countries: Jordan.
Higher Council for Youth (2004): National Youth Strategy for Jordan 2005- 2009.
ILO (2014): Labour market transitions of young women and men in Jordan.
Jordan Youth Innovation Forum (2014): Website. http://www.jyif.org/moreabout.php
UNDP (2013): Arab Human Development Report. Expanding Youth Opportunities.
UNESCO (2012): Jordan – UNESCO Country Programming Document (UCPD) 2012-2017.
World Bank (2011): Reproductive Health at a Glance: Jordan.
Young Lives (2014) Young Lives Survey