While Jordan has made remarkable strides in achieving gender parity on human development indicators, it continues to face significant challenges in economic inclusion. In 2009, Jordan was ranked by the World Economic Forum as one of the worst performers (122 out of 134 countries) in gender equality in economic participation and opportunity. Jordan has a female labor force participation rate of 23 percent, which ranks it 177 out of 185 countries around the world. Being young and female in Jordan is a double burden. The female youth unemployment rate is 38 percent compared to 17 percent among male youth and young women account for only 9 percent of the economically active population in Jordan. According to a brief World Bank survey of final year community college students in 2010, 90 percent of the soon-to-graduate female responders expressed interest in joining the labor force upon graduating. The reality of Jordan’s labor market is even more dismal: Only 23 percent of all women are economically active, out of which 62 percent are able to secure employment.
Jordan NOW is the most recent addition to the World Bank’s Adolescent Girls Initiative. This is an effort to facilitate the transition from school to productive employment for girls and young women. Combining financial incentives and skills training, the pilot is underpinned by a rigorous impact evaluation that aims to:
- Improve information sharing between firms and potential workers ;
- Provide the opportunity to build a positive work reputation for female graduates ;
- Subsidize on-the-job skills acquisition;
- Change negative stereotypes among firms and young women ;
- Improve soft-skills and communication skills.
The pilot project comprises two main efforts aimed at improving female labor force participation by reducing initial barriers to entry for young female community college graduates:
- Job vouchers: 600 young women have been selected to receive job vouchers which provide a short-term incentive for firms to take a chance on hiring new graduates who do not have work experience, and to provide firms with an opportunity to overcome stereotypes through directly observing young women working for them. Each voucher has a face value of 150 Jordanian Dinar (US$210) per month, is valid for a maximum of six months, and is transferred to the employer upon verification of employment contract and salary.
- Employability skills training providing 600 new graduates with the opportunity to improve interpersonal and soft skills that employers identify as constraints which in turn makes them reluctant to hire these young women.
Compared to other active labor market policies in Jordan, this pilot project is distinguishable by several key features. First, it explicitly focuses on the promotion of labor force participation and employment of young female community college graduates. Secondly, none of the past programs in Jordan have been evaluated for effectiveness. The impact evaluation of Jordan NOW is unique even amongst the other Adolescent Girls Initiative pilot projects in that it will measure the separate and the joint effectiveness of providing financial incentives and skills training.
Implementation of this pilot has moved forward at record pace. Since securing initial funding of US$ 1 million in March 2010:
- 373 young female graduates completed the training sessions and started looking for jobs ;
- 300 young females were employed under the Job Voucher system by January 2011, just four months after the start of the voucher system in October 2010 ;
- An overwhelming majority of participating trainees who attended at least one training session successfully completed training requirements to receive a completion certificate in eight of the 17 delivered training programs. This is evidence that participants view the training program as highly relevant.
This pilot is currently funded by the Gender Action Plan with a budget of USD $1 million.
This pilot is Bank-executed and financed with the support of the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, Dajani Consulting (job vouchers and MIS) and the Business Development Center (training). A steering committee was formed consisting of representatives from the Al-Balqa Applied University and its constituent community colleges, the Ministries of Education, Labor, andSocial Development, and the Jordanian National Commission for Women. Other key partners include the national and governorate level Chambers of Commerce and Industry. The pilot also benefited from consultations with other development partners who work in Jordan including the Canadian International Development Agency and the European Community.
Toward the Future
A follow-up survey is planned after the vouchers expire in August 2011 to measure the relative and combined effectiveness of these measures, and to learn how many of the beneficiaries retained their jobs after the program ended. Any subsequent expansion of the pilot project will be based on the results of the evaluation.