Gender equity

Fight underway to end gender pay discrimination in Jordanian private education

The lack of pay equity between men and women in Jordan’s private education sector highlights a national trend that demands a holistic response.

Feature | 09 October 2014
Sahar* thought she had landed her dream job when a private school in the Jordanian capital Amman hired her as a teacher shortly after graduating from university. But the experience quickly turned sour when the 25-year-old found out she was earning significantly less than her male counterpart.

While both were fresh out of higher education, and taught the same subjects for the same number of hours, Sahar was being paid 150 Jordanian dinars (about $US 211) per month compared to the male teacher’s 200 dinars (about $US 282). She then found out that she was not alone: most female teachers at her school turned out to earn notably less than their male colleagues.

Sahar says she brought the glaring pay disparity to the attention of the school’s management and was bluntly ignored. Finding the situation intolerable, she decided to resign four months into her one-year contract. It was a heart breaking decision. “I felt depressed because I realized that after all the studying and hard work I did, I would never go back to teaching in the private education sector again,” she says.

Now pursuing her graduate degree in women’s studies, Sahar aims to become an advocate for women’s employment rights in Jordan. She has her work cut out for her. In 2013, the ILO, the Jordanian National Commission for Women (JNCW) and Jordan’s Ministry of Labour released a seminal report on the gender pay gap in Jordan’s private education sector. The report found that there is a significant gender pay gap in Jordan’s private education sector - as high as 41.6 per cent in private schools and 23.1 per cent in private universities. These disparities exist despite Jordan’s ratification of the ILO Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100) and the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111).

Afraid to complain

Kamal Maani, the head of the Amman Inspection Directorate, at the Ministry of Labour, estimates that some 80 per cent of wage-related complaints come from the private education sector.

“Most complaints we get from women in the sector are to do with them receiving less than the minimum wage, whereas men [who do the same jobs] tend to receive salaries that are above the minimum wage,” said Maani.

According to the 2013 study, the gender pay gap in Jordan’s private education establishments is due to numerous factors. These include the lack of legal provisions that encourage women to join the labour force or promote equality in the workplace, to prevailing sociocultural notions that perceive men as the main breadwinners and as therefore entitled to higher remuneration than women.

“Social norms and society’s views of women are big contributors to the country’s gender pay gap,” explains Abeer Dababneh, Director of Women’s Studies Center at the University of Jordan. “Women are seen as secondary to men, therefore their work is not valued on the same level as men. Some women also feel that they cannot complain of discrimination either due to fear of losing their jobs or due to social pressures.”

Fighting back

In 2011, the ILO joined forces with the Jordanian National Commission for Women (JNCW) and the Ministry of Labour to set up the Jordanian National Committee for Pay Equity (NCPE). The NCPE’s main objective is to promote effective measures that close the gender pay gap in Jordan, and since its creation the committee has grown to include trade unions, professional associations, employers, civil society groups, women’s research centres, journalists and parliamentarians.

Reem Aslan, the ILO’s National Pay Equity Consultant in Jordan, says one of the most important aspects of the committee’s work so far has been its detailed research into gender pay discrimination in the private education sector. The findings are being used as guide for the creation of policy recommendations to tackle the problem.

“At the legislative level, more effective lobbying is required to advocate for relevant amendments to Jordan’s Labour Law in order to promote equal remuneration for equal value in line with international labour standards,” says Aslan. At the local level, committee members are working with the public, policy makers and community leaders at governorate level to raise awareness on pay equity through workshops and media campaigns across the country, according to Aslan.

Representation over discrimination

A newly established Jordanian Teachers’ Syndicate has recently joined forces with the ILO and its partners to represent teachers in labour disputes and fight widespread workplace gender-based discrimination. The syndicate’s Abeer Al-Akhras urged teachers to come forward to inform them of their problems.

“We want to support the teachers but they have to come to us for support. It is partly their responsibility to make sure their issues are addressed,” Al-Akhras said.

For her part, Sahar believes she may have been able to remain in her dream profession if the syndicate had existed when she was still teaching.

“When I faced problems in 2011 there was no teachers syndicate to turn to. Now there is one and they should play a big role in supporting the teachers, by raising awareness and explaining the law,” she said. “These women have to be encouraged to make their voices heard.”

Steps to success

In addition to supporting the Teacher’s Syndicate, the ILO is also planning to introduce a gender-sensitive human resource system to two private schools in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and the Syndicate. At present, the ILO is developing the criteria for selecting the schools that will pilot an ILO gender-neutral job evaluation methodology – a tool guide to promote the principle of equal remuneration for work of equal value.

While Aslan says this nascent initiative is but one element of a holistic response required to resolve gender-pay discrimination in Jordan, she is confident that concrete results will soon emerge.

“The private education is the first sector we are working with and we are dealing with it as a pilot. By working with our partners we are learning what steps need to be taken in order to move forward,’’ says Aslan. ‘’But this is just the beginning. If we succeed, we will move on to other sectors by first conducting more evidence-based research to find proven ways to help women and, hopefully, in good time we can rid Jordan of gender pay inequality.”

*The names of workers have been changed in order to protect their employment interests.