Jordanian Youth Protest Unemployment

Unemployment in Jordan has fluctuated in recent years, remaining at a high level. (Wikimedia Commons)

Unemployment in Jordan has fluctuated in recent years, remaining at a high level. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Jordanian government made concessions in February and March to protesters who were marching to express their frustration over poor employment opportunities in Jordan. According to Trading Economics, the latest unemployment rate stands at 18.7 percent.

A group of young Jordanian protesters, angry with unemployment, marched over 200 miles from Aqaba to the Royal Court in Amman on February 14. The original group, estimated around 40 people, attracted followers along the way, finishing the march with at least 350 demonstrators, according to Middle East Eye.

The protests ramped up pressure on Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz, who already faces heavy scrutiny. In early 2019, he tried to increase taxes on the middle and lower classes to alleviate the national debt, which stands at $39 billion, according to Middle East Eye.

That the Razzaz administration has attracted an abundance of criticism since coming to power last year may explain why the arduous efforts of the jobless demonstrators appear to have succeeded, at least in the short-term. On February 21, Jordan’s Minister of Labor stated that the government would create 3,300 jobs in sectors such as tourism, health, and agriculture.

This, however, set a dangerous precedent. Upon reading the ministry’s decision, a group of unemployed people from the city of Maan began to march to the Royal Court with hopes of finding employment. The group caused great consternation within the Jordanian government, as reported by Al-Monitor, as they refused to stop until their demands were met. Razzaz eventually caved on March 3, reports Ammon News, and sent government officials to meet with the group.

The success of the marches may have a significant impact on the Razzaz administration. Razzaz feels pressured to improve his standing among the Jordanian public. He will be wary of the plight of his predecessor Hani Mulki, who resigned in June 2018 following massive countrywide protests against IMF-backed austerity policies.