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Balancing the Books: Including women and protecting refugees is essential to realizing small business growth in Jordan

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It is essential that opportunities for job growth are supported both for refugees in Jordan and the vulnerable communities hosting them. Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) can be a key driver of job growth. Promoting MSMEs could also help to address gender inequality and protection issues for refugees in Jordan.

1 INTRODUCTION

‘My circumstances have dictated this path. I do not have a college degree. I have no opportunities to continue my education or develop my skills, so I started working from home.’ – A woman business owner living in the north of Jordan.

Jordan is often referred to as an oasis of stability amid the continued violence in neighbouring Syria and Iraq. Yet unemployment and economic stagnation threaten this status.

Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) employ 70 percent of the Jordanian workforce across numerous sectors and will be the key source of job growth for the future. Many young people are unable to find job opportunities. The challenges are greatest for young women, who face additional barriers to working, particularly if they are Syrian refugees.

However, economic development in Jordan cannot progress without women playing a greater role. Some research shows that, by closing the gender gap in labour force participation, Jordan could boost GDP by about 45 percent.

This briefing aims to shed light on key challenges faced by people wishing to start their own businesses in Jordan, particularly women and Syrian refugees.

The LEADERS Consortium in Jordan – consisting of ACTED, the Danish Refugee Council,
CARE, Oxfam and Save the Children – aims to contribute to the economic self-reliance, resilience and social stability of Syrian refugees and vulnerable host communities in Jordan. For this briefing, we spoke to local and senior government officials, labour representatives, community-based organizations and other aid organizations.

The research included focus group discussions with women and men small business owners in the municipalities of Russaife and Ramtha in the Zarqa and Irbid governorates, in central and northern Jordan, respectively (see Box 1).

By providing insight into the conditions and challenges faced by these communities, the LEADERS consortium hopes to assist in shaping future programmes and closing the policy implementation gap to benefit business growth in Jordan.