Public sector pay gap grows, private sector picks up slack


Published: 2019-10-20 16:26

Last Updated: 2022-08-13 03:54

Public sector pay gap grows, private sector picks up slack
Public sector pay gap grows, private sector picks up slack

The public sector is becoming worse by the year for women seeking equal pay conditions as pay growth for men outpaces that of women.

This report, which was made by Abdallah AlShamali, examines data issued by the Jordanian Department of statistics on annual employee compensation to uncover the root of the persistent pay gap facing women in the workforce in Jordan.

A lonely life as a working woman in Jordan

Jordan consistently ranks as one of the world’s worst places for women to live in. It ranks 138 from a total of 149 countries in the global gender gap index and ranks 84th in wage equality for similar work according to the global gender pay gap report. While Jordan’s rank is improving slightly, other countries in the region are getting worse for women’s pay. These ranks reflect the economic reality for women in the country and region. Unlike countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan, where women are generally much sicker and less educated than men, Jordan’s lack of gender equality boils down to one issue: Jordanian women simply do not work, despite being relatively healthy and educated. Only 14 percent of women above the age of 15 in Jordan are part of the workforce, according to International Labour Organization data.

The government’s role in getting women to work

Governments in many countries have implemented policies to bring women into the workforce and prevent wage descrimination. These policies include paid maternity leave, paid and unpaid childcare, increased tax relief, tax rebates, and childcare subsidies as well as legal penalties for companies caught committing workplace discrimination. Although Jordan has one of the lowest rates of female economic participation in the world, government policies have done little so far to close the gap. At the current pace, according to the World Economic Forum, it will take 153 years for women in the Middle East and North Africa to achieve gender equality with men.

The Jordanian government shortchanges its female employees

Unlike countries where jobs in the public sector offer more security and equality than jobs in the private sector for women, in Jordan, the opposite is true. In recent years, the public sector is widening the gap instead of shrinking it.

On average, in 2017, Jordanian men got paid higher than women by 9.14%. This means that for every JD 100 earned by men, women got JOD 90 though they may work in many different fields. Looking back to 2010, the pay gap was 10.92%. Progress over a decade is slow, partially due to paying inequality in the public sector. A survey conducted by the Department of Statistics shows that the public sector pay gap has gotten worse since 2010. The reason behind the slight closing of the pay gap is the improvements happening in the private sector. The below graph shows the development of the pay gap in both the public and private sectors.

The pay gap in the private sector went down by 4.3% since 2010, while the pay gap in the public sector grew by 3.4%. Despite the backslide in progress, nearly half of working women are employed in the public sector.

Women flock to more equitable private sector jobs

There are many factors contributing to the change in the pay gap since 2010 and why the private sector is outperforming the public sector. Even though 50 thousand women joined the private sector workforce since 2010, nearly twice the women that joined the public sector, the private sector managed to absorb the influx and pushed pay for women closer to that of their male colleagues. Women’s salaries grew at a faster rate than men’s salaries in the private sector, while in the public sector, women’s salaries growth did not keep up with the salary growth enjoyed by their male peers.

“The increase in salaries in the private sector is the result of continuous efforts to empower and improve the conditions for working women in Jordan,” said Dr. Eman Ekour the coordinator at the National Committee for Pay Equity in Jordan and an employee at the Ministry of Labor. The committee has been working on the pay equity in Jordan since 2011 but is only targeting the private sector. The private sector is governed by the Labor Law, while the public sector is out of their scope because it is governed by the Civil Service Bylaw. Dr. Eman explained that the committee has carried out many advocacy efforts to address discriminatory articles in the Labor Law, and with their efforts and others some of these articles were amended to ensure more equitable conditions but there is still work to be done to amend other articles.

Reem Aslan, a gender technical specialist working with the International Labor Organization who has been working on the pay equity subject in Jordan even before the National Committee for Pay Equity was formed, said that a lot of women experience direct pay-related discrimination without being aware of it. She said many women think that it is acceptable for women to receive less pay than men because they believe that women's income is of secondary importance to men’s in the family. Aslan heard many women express this view during her work in the field years ago as she met with Jordanian working women. When Aslan was asked about the improvements in the private sector, she said, “there might be many factors and it’s hard to pinpoint them but it’s obvious that there are more women who are aware of their rights and aware that they can demand to have them”.

Pay equality was clearly achieved in the private education sector, Aslan explained. It was found that many of Jordanian female teachers were paid less than the minimum wage. Following this discovery, an advocacy campaign was launched to change regulations to force private schools to transfer salaries to teachers online so the government can access the e-payment record and identify and prosecute any violations of wage laws.

Greater awareness, monitoring and campaigning explain much of the progress made in the private sector. Women's rights awareness campaigns are more focused on the private sector and the Ministry of Labor is also paying particular attention to working conditions in the private sector. In contrast, the public sector is left with no such oversight. The data provided cannot explain what was behind the pay gap increase; this needs to be investigated in depth. Anecdotal evidence provides examples of gender pay discrimination that is being enforced in the public sector. For example, the annual family bonuses given to married men who work in the public sector are not paid out to married women. A married woman in the public sector cannot get the family bonus unless she is the only provider for her children, or if her husband can’t work for health reasons, but married men receive the bonus.

Which jobs offer the most equitable pay? It depends on whether the job is in the public or the private sector

A closer look into the sectors shows that certain jobs are more likely to offer more equal wages. Women in the private sector who work on one end of the spectrum, as professionals or managers or at the other end of the spectrum, as machine operators, are more affected by the pay gap. While in the public sector women who work in service and retail, technicians, associate professionals or managers tend to take home a smaller salary than their male counterparts.

What the two sectors have in common is that women managers and professionals are one of the most affected by the pay gap as a percentage of total pay, even though these two job types demand more experience and educational qualifications. Since management positions are the top-paying jobs for both men and women, women managers are losing more money than any other women in other types of jobs. In addition, women working as professionals make up half of the entire women workforce in the country. So, half of the women in Jordan’s workforce are the most to experience pay gap in the country.

“Salaries are not given according to work value” Dr. Eman said to explain why any two people who have the same experience and job function get paid differently across different institutions.

The per job type change since 2010 further explains the pay gap improvements in the private sector and the decline in the public sector. Women’s salaries grew faster in the private sector across most types of jobs even as women joined the private sector at a faster and faster rate.. As for the public sector, for half of the jobs, men’s salaries grew faster.

Education not a Guarantee of Equal Pay for Women

Jordanian women face an additional penalty for becoming educated. The higher their educational qualification is, especially those who hold B.S.c and above, the bigger the pay gap becomes, and this is true for both the private and public sectors. So a woman has a lower return on investment than men do, even though they pay the same for their degrees.

Private sector is not necessarily best for women

Although the private sector is leading progress in closing the pay gap, the public sector still offers higher-paying jobs regardless of gender. In 2017, the average salary of women in the private sector reached JD 403, whereas in the public sector it was JOD 544. This variance is also per job type. The public sector gives women higher salaries across almost all job types. Women who work in low-level jobs and those who work in service and retail in the public sector receive salaries double the salaries women in the private sector receive.

The data shows that currently, the average woman will face less pay-related discrimination in the private sector than in the public sector, where both men and women take higher salaries.

What would it take to close the pay gap

In January 2019, the parliament approved on changes to the Labor Law, among which is to consider offering women lower pay as a crime, yet it is unclear how the law will be applied by the Ministry of Labor, which is in charge of enforcement.

Closing the pay gap today would not be cheap. Going from the 2017 figures, the average female managers would gain an extra JD 6250 a year while women working as professionals -half of the entire women workforce- would gain an extra JD 2628 a year. On a sector level, the average women working in the public sector miss out on JD 1176 annually, compared to JD 684 in the private sector. To fix that and close the pay gap, the public sector must increase its salary budget by JD 13 million and the private sector by around JD 9.2 million.


The pay gap calculation for every sector and job type were calculated by subtracting the women’s average pay from the men's average pay and dividing the result by the men’s average pay. The average pay for every sector and job type by gender is provided in the original data set from the Department of Statistics survey on employment. 2010 was selected as a baseline year for no particular reason other than limiting the years to include in the analysis. After calculating all pay gaps, a comparative analysis was performed to find trends. The needed money to close the pay gap was calculated by subtracting the women’s average pay from the men's average pay and multiplying it by the number of women workers in the respective sector.