Jordan orders army conscription for 25-29-year-olds to help tackle unemployment

Jordan is to start conscripting men and women aged between 25 and 29 into its army for one year as part of efforts to tackle the country’s unemployment crisis. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 09 September 2020

Jordan orders army conscription for 25-29-year-olds to help tackle unemployment

  • Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz on Wednesday supervised the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the government and the army

AMMAN: Jordan is to start conscripting men and women aged between 25 and 29 into its army for one year as part of efforts to tackle the country’s unemployment crisis.

And under the terms of the program, conscripts will be denied use of their mobile phones in a bid to focus their minds. 

Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz on Wednesday supervised the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the government and the army in the presence of Labor Minister Nidal Bataineh and head of the joint chiefs of the Jordanian Armed Forces, Maj. Gen. Yousef Huniti.

Under the terms of the MoU, men will undertake three months of military training and all conscripts will be skills trained and placed in private-sector roles for the remaining nine months of their service.

The army will pay conscripts 100 dinars ($141) a month and will cover their salaries up to a minimum wage of 220 dinars when they take up roles with private companies.

They will also be enrolled in the social security program and those without family health insurance will be provided with cover for the duration of their conscription period. During army training and service, conscripts will be banned from using their mobile phones, but they will be allowed end-of-month vacations.

Bataineh said the conscription order had been based on a 1986 law and applied to those born in 1995 who were not working, residing abroad, students, head of a family, or an only son when called in.

“National service will reinforce national identity and create a culture of discipline and will provide for learning new skills which will allow these young people to enter the workforce.”

Ahmad Awad, director of the Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies, told Arab News that he feared the scheme could be a short-term fix for a problem that needed long-term solutions.

“If we are serious about solving the unemployment problem in Jordan, we must tackle it by making deep and painful changes,” he said.

He pointed out that structural change would require improvements in wages and working conditions so that Jordanians could take up jobs in sectors such as construction and agriculture.

Awad noted that being in the army could force a change in thinking and break cultural taboos. “But this will be temporary. As soon as the year is over, they (the conscripts) will go back to their old habits.”

Wajih Oweis, a member of the Jordanian Senate and former minister, said that preparing unemployed Jordanians to join the labor force also required a major shift in how education was regulated.

“In 2016 the government approved a far-reaching education strategy which it never enforced. The strategy was aimed at annually increasing Jordanians attending vocational training by 3 to 4 percent with a similar decrease in university enrollment, to reach a formula of 60 percent university students and the rest vocational, instead of the current exaggerated rate of 95 percent of students going to universities and only 5 percent into vocational training.”

Imad Maayah, a retired major general in the Jordanian Army, told Arab News the decision was an “excellent” move by the government.

“The three-month training period is an opportunity to allow young people to review their life in an orderly way. I love the fact that the army will take away from them their smartphones so that they can think about themselves and their homeland. I am certain we will find creative talents that are needed for our country.”

Layla Nafaa, director of the Arab Women’s Organization, said conscription would provide Jordanian women with much-needed work opportunities. “This will give them social and economic independence and will bridge the gender gap in employment which has been exacerbated due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19 pandemic) that has decimated the economy.”

Maamoun Abu Nawwar, a retired Jordanian two-star air force general, told Arab News that people joined the army for glory, values, and national favor. “But some also join the army to become a new person.

“The army teaches discipline, breaks cultural taboos, teaches work ethics and basic human values, as well as making the conscripts responsible citizens,” he said.


Pan-Arab poll: Biden better for region, but must shun Obama policies

Updated 59 min 24 sec ago

Pan-Arab poll: Biden better for region, but must shun Obama policies

  • Majority of respondents to Arab News/YouGov survey consider neither candidate good for region
  • Findings show strong Arab support for Trump on Iran but not on Jerusalem embassy move

RIYADH: Nearly half the respondents in an Arab News/YouGov poll conducted in 18 Middle East and Africa (MENA) countries believe neither candidate in the upcoming US elections will necessarily be good for the region.
Of the rest, 40 percent said Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden would be better for the region while 12 percent said the same thing about incumbent President Donald Trump. But a key takeaway of the poll is that if Biden, who served as vice president to Barack Obama until 2017, wins the White House race, he would be well advised to shed the Obama administration baggage.
When asked about policies implemented in the Middle East under the Obama administration, the most popular response (53 percent) was that the Democratic president left the region worse off, with another 58 percent saying Biden should distance himself from Obama-era policies.
The study surveyed a sample of 3,097 respondents online to find out how people in the MENA region feel about the Nov. 3 US elections.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Containing Iran was found to be one of the top four issues that respondents wanted the next US president to focus on. Strong support for Trump both maintaining a war posture against Iran and imposing strict sanctions against the Tehran regime was noticed in Iraq (53 percent), Lebanon (38 percent) and Yemen (54 percent), three countries that have had intimate regional dealings with Iran.
President Trump’s 2017 decision to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem proved overwhelmingly unpopular, with 89 percent of Arabs opposing it. Surprisingly, in contrast to most other Arabs, Palestinian respondents inside the Palestinian Territories indicated a greater desire for the US to play a bigger role in mediation with Israel.
Arab opinion was largely split on the elimination this year of Iran’s regional “satrap” Gen. Qassem Soleimani, with the single largest proportion of respondents from Iraq (57 percent) and Lebanon (41 percent) seeing it as a positive move, as opposed to those in Syria and Qatar, where most respondents — respectively 57 percent and 62 percent — saw it as negative for the region.

Iran also figured in the list of perceived threats to US interests, although well behind white nationalism (32 percent) and China (22 percent). The other critical challenges for the US as viewed by Arabs were cybercrime, radical Islamic terrorism and climate change.
For a country that touts itself as an ally of the US, public attitudes in Qatar were found to be surprisingly out of sync with US objectives in the Middle East. The perception of radical Islamic terrorism, Iran and Islamist parties as the “three biggest threats facing the region” was much softer in Qatar compared with the region as a whole.
It came as little surprise that three quarters of respondents want the next US administration to make it easier for people from Arab countries to travel to the US. The figure for Lebanon, for instance, was even higher, 79 percent, underscoring concerns that many young Arabs are actively trying to leave the region.
Among other findings, Arabs remain overwhelmingly concerned about such challenges as failed government (66 percent) and the economic slowdown (43 percent).
Close to half of the respondents (44 percent) would like to see the next US president focus on empowering young people in the Arab region and solving the Arab-Israeli conflict (44 percent), followed by containing COVID-19 (37 percent), reining in Iran and Hezbollah (24 percent), quashing radical Islamic terrorism (24 percent) and tackling climate change (17 percent).