US Foreign Policy
Commentary

Jordan’s Forgotten Youth Problem

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By Que’Nique Mykte’ Newbill – King Abdullah’s post-election euphoria disguises the enduring challenge of youth political participation in Jordan. The country’s western allies have adopted a similar relaxed posture towards the palace-led reforms. Yet the state’s continued claims of “reform success” neglect the sentiment of the country’s unsettled youth. Representing more than half the population and the bulk of the unemployed, unrest among Jordanian youth–particularly tribal elements-continues to fester. Impending austerity measures set against these social pressures present a critical juncture for the state.

Jordan’s recent elections ushered into power various tribal coalitions and independent businessmen, groups considered loyal to King Abdullah II and likely to resist substantive reform. While the level of youth participation–and active boycott–is unknown, skepticism towards state-led reform abounds among many young Jordanians. Instead, concerns about their own economic livelihood remain a top focus.

The country’s myriad economic challenges underscore these concerns. Similar to other Middle East states, Jordan’s official youth unemployment rate hovers around 30 percent, more than double the national rate of 12 percent. However, unofficial estimates place both numbers much higher. In addition, Jordan’s weak economy and tribal patronage system have encouraged an acutely bloated public sector, even by regional standards. The IMF estimates the public sector accounts for 35 percent of total employment in Jordan–on par with Egypt, a country nearly 14 times its population size. Jordan’s unemployment rate also continues to rise as fewer young Jordanians are able to find jobs in the Gulf. Its aid-dependent budget and ongoing energy crisis create regular annual deficits. Continue…

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This article was first published by the Diplomatic Courier.

Photo credit: Isamb via Flickr

 

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