10 Facts About Poverty in Jordan

Top 10 Poverty in Jordan Facts

Jordan is a country of key interest to the United States, as both share mutual goals of bringing a comprehensive and lasting peace to the conflict-ridden Middle East. As proof of its investment in maintaining diplomatic relations, the United States has contributed vastly to Jordan’s growth and development over the past decade, providing billions in aid to improve the conditions of the military, economy and health care for citizens.

Much of this aid aims to address the overarching issue of poverty in Jordan, which affects an estimated 35% of the total population. Today, there are several factors that characterize poverty in Jordan, which is anticipated to increase over the next couple of years without critical state reform. These 10 facts about poverty in Jordan seek to break down major components of the issue and supply possible solutions going forward.

10 Facts About Poverty in Jordan

  1. Climate
    Despite having a naturally harsh desert landscape, the mean temperature of the country has exponentially increased over the past half-century, resulting in frequent and lasting droughts that have contributed to water scarcity. Low water availability forces residents to rely upon contaminated water sources, exacerbating the spread of vector-borne diseases. Water-scarce regions also suffer from low agricultural production, creating rifts in the local economy and leading to food insecurity. Such risks are anticipated to grow in size and scale without careful management. According to the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), 40% of Jordan’s groundwater basins are expected to be severely depleted by 2030.
  2. Low Minimum Wage
    The minimum wage in Jordan is currently set at USD 366.87 per month for 2023 and 2024. In comparison, the poverty line for a Jordanian household stands at USD 677.80 per month.  This minimum wage amount has been largely acknowledged as insufficient to support approximately 500,000 Jordanians in the formal or informal labor force, and as encouraging high unemployment rates. It has also been denounced for not complying with the Jordanian labor rights law, which mandates raising the minimum wage concurrent with increases in the inflation rate and cost of living. 
  3. Inflation
    Despite the country’s history of macroeconomic stability, Jordan is subject to frequent spikes in inflation. In 2023, the index for fuel and lighting increased by 6.76% compared to 2022, while that of dairy products and eggs increased by 5.95%. In February 2024, food prices in the country increased by 1.8%, characteristic of the recent trend of increasing food prices observed in 2023. Despite affecting the livelihood of all Jordanians, low-income residents have especially been impacted by the fluctuating inflation rate, and have experienced a greater eroding of their purchasing power. Many report an inability to purchase essential expenses as a result of attempting to cover their basic needs.
  4. Marginalized Rural Communities
    Today, poverty is highest in rural areas and is constantly amplified by chronic water shortages and a lack of critical infrastructure. Animal husbandry, the traditional economic pillar for many rural communities, has experienced a sharp increase in livestock feed costs in recent years, which has pressured households to sell their animals to offset their losses. Failed state projects to alleviate low agricultural production rates have exacerbated the marginalization of rural communities, inciting protests by impoverished workers and local youths demanding better economic opportunities since 2011.
  5. Insufficient Social Protection
    In 2023, intended beneficiaries of an automated cash transfer program initially known as Takaful reported crippling failures to address poverty. Many households were incorrectly rejected from financial support because they did not fit the algorithm’s model of stereotypical poverty, depriving them of their right to social security. Programmed indicators intended to capture economic complexity were markedly insufficient and depended on inaccurate and unreliable data to form profiles. This program was also largely available to those with access to technology, which excluded residents unfamiliar with digital technology and rural communities, exacerbating existing disparities instead of resolving them. 
  6. Debt
    In November 2023, Jordan recorded an all-time high national debt of $46 billion. This rate is anticipated to increase by $5.2 billion between 2024 and 2029 and has been attributed to costly infrastructure projects commissioned by China over the past decade. High rates of debt have devalued money for low-income residents and have discouraged savings and long-term investments, crippling citizens looking to escape poverty.
  7. COVID-19
    Economic growth in Jordan came to a standstill during the COVID-19 pandemic. National GDP was estimated to have decreased by 23%, and food systems experienced a reduction in output by nearly 40%. Employment losses were also estimated at over 20%, devastating the services sector and the agricultural sector. Following the pandemic, small businesses were still subject to a drop in revenues, resulting in financial burdens that saw many unable to afford costs of rent, energy and utilities. Although the state has attempted to resolve these labor market structural challenges by promoting tailored support to informal daily wage workers, numerous businesses still report financial burdens that reflect a long road to recovery. 
  8. The Syrian Refugee Crisis
    Jordan hosts more than 643,000 Syrians as a result of the civil war in neighboring Syria.. Thousands of civilians have poured into the country in search of solace from the conflict. Over 85% live in rented facilities outside of refugee camps and are forced to resort to child labor and reduced food intake to offset unemployment and illnesses. Approximately 66% of Syrian refugees live below the poverty line and are expected to continue to suffer from harsh living conditions without access to social services, better health care and economic opportunities.
  9. Domestic Unrest
    Repressive government measures in Jordan have resulted in increasingly violent protests in recent years. IMF-mandated austerity measures have led fuel prices to nearly double, inciting demonstrations throughout the country consisting of professional drivers, youths and shop owners. Many demonstrations have vandalized public property and blocked roads, and have been concentrated in the cities of central and southern Jordan. Despite the government’s acquiescence to lower fuel prices in December 2022, the recurring cycle of insufficient structural adjustment amid chronic socioeconomic crises will inevitably create another wave of unrest unless effective reform is implemented.
  10. Solutions Exist
    Poverty in Jordan is not without viable solutions. Further increasing foreign aid to the country in the form of monetary funds to assist in economic development can help the nation cope with prominent issues such as low water supply and food insecurity. New and continued partnerships with global humanitarian organizations can provide residents with vital resources and personnel to improve health conditions and support disadvantaged populations. One such agency, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has helped facilitate a 40% reduction in infant mortality over the last twenty years, supported better access to education for Jordanians and refugees alike, increased the availability of safe drinking water and administered the Jordan-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.  With the right support and resources, Jordan can have the leverage it needs to push back against current socioeconomic detriments and start on a road to recovery and success.

These 10 facts about poverty in Jordan have outlined several key political and socioeconomic problems in Jordan that have led to high rates of poverty, and have provided viable solutions to rectify these issues. It is vital that the United States continues its investment in allied countries in the region and prevents further political instability to secure a peaceful future for Jordan in the years to come.

– Shane Summers, Moon Jung Kim 

Photo: Flickr