Jordan’s Gaping Gender Wage Gap

By Jane Hosking

If men and women have the same job and do the same work, they should be paid the same wage, right? While this may seem like simple logic, the reality, however, is quite often a different story.

According to a report by the International Labor Organization (ILO), men working in Jordan’s private sector earn on average 41 percent more than women, and 28 percent more in the public sector.

When it comes to wage equality for similar work, Jordan was ranked 74 out of 131 countries in 2014 by the World Economic Forum’s wage equality survey, with a score of 4.44 out of 7. Back in 2009, Jordan’s score was 5.4, indicating that gender-based pay discrimination is getting worse.

Nadia Shahin, general manager of Amin Kawar and Sons Shipping and Transportation, has had incredible success in her career despite working in a very male-dominated industry. While she credits her employer with treating her as an equal in the company, she recognizes that for many women working in her industry and in many professions, this is often not the case.

She believes that pay inequality is a big problem in Jordan but also believes it’s a universal issue. “Pay equality is a problem all around the world,” she said.

While women in Jordan do face greater discrimination when it comes to pay than women in many other countries, Shahin is certainly correct that this issue extends far beyond the Kingdom. A recent report by the ILO revealed that globally, women earn approximately 77 percent of what men earn.

But for Shahin, as well as being unfair, this doesn’t make good business sense. “Pay should be based on the job and not on gender,” she said, adding that gender shouldn’t even come into the equation when deciding the wage of an employee. “It should be an unbiased, professional decision, evaluated on merit.”

While women are often unaware that they’re receiving less than their male counterparts, if they have any inkling that they are getting less, companies risk losing them. Lower wages for women may also mean that companies fail to attract talented women in the first place. “Businesses are losing out by not attracting women and are therefore losing the value of having women in their company,” said Shahin. “Women have as much to offer as men. They add value to businesses and diversity,” she continued.

While outright discrimination is certainly one of the reasons why women receive lower wages than men—when women are paid less for doing the same job—often there are less obvious forms of discrimination at play as well.

According to Jordan’s National Steering Committee for Pay Equity (NSCPE), this includes the undervaluation and underpayment of jobs that are dominated by women, such as health and education, even though these jobs require a high level of skill and are of equal value to society as many male dominated professions. “In Jordan, when skill level is taken into account, women are paid considerably less than men,” said the NSCPE’s on their website.

But even in these female dominated sectors there have been reports of pay disparity between men and women. For example, a report released in 2013 by the ILO, the Jordanian National Commission for Women, and Jordan’s Ministry of Labor, a significant gender pay gap was found to exist in Jordan’s private education sector—as high as 41.6 percent in private schools and 23.1 percent in private universities.

Other factors contributing to the problem of pay inequality can include career interruptions for women due to childbirth, which can have an impact on their career development, and cultural issues. Shahin believes that in Jordan men are often seen as the breadwinner of the family which leads some to believe that they are therefore more deserving of a higher wage.