Jordan's Population Trends, Challenges & Outlook

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  • 0:01 Oasis in the Desert
  • 0:31 Rapid Growth
  • 1:22 Refugees Old and New
  • 2:27 Overeducated & Underused
  • 3:22 Clamoring for Rights
  • 4:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

Jordan possesses one of the most stable societies and governments in the Middle East. That said, being stable comes with its own challenges, as this lesson demonstrates.

Oasis in the Desert

Read the newspapers or turn on the news, and it's very likely that if you are hearing genuinely good news coming from an Arab state in the Middle East, it's Jordan. Stable under a dynasty that has proven to be friendly towards the West, Jordan has a population that is vehemently against conflict. However, the country does have very serious issues of a demographic nature. Jordan's population has tripled in the last 30 years, and in a desert country, such growth is simply not sustainable.

Rapid Growth

Let me say that again so the enormity of it sinks in: Jordan's population has tripled in the past 30 years, to almost 6.5 million people living in the country. In some countries, such growth could easily be absorbed. However, Jordan is a middle-income country that is largely covered by desert. As a result, there are severe strains on the country's environment. Water resources largely consist of expensive desalinization, or conversion of salt water to drinkable water, the heavily polluted and woefully overused Jordan River, and a large aquifer, or underground water source, which is irreplaceable. In short, Jordan's growing population is in very real danger of running out of water one day in the near future.

Refugees Old and New

Such strain would be bad enough if it were only Jordanians using the water - after all, there are only three million Jordanians. The rest of the country's population - some 3.5 million people - is all refugees. A refugee is someone who is forced to leave their home country due to violence or imminent threat of violence. Unfortunately, Jordan has had more experience with refugees than just about any other country. Since Jordan's independence, a sizable chunk of the population has been officially classified as Palestinian refugees. Ironically, they are from one of the most water-rich parts of the Middle East! However, due to violence between the Palestinians and Israelis, they are now in Jordan. Some Palestinians have even taken up Jordanian citizenship and live as Palestinian-Jordanians. However, some still live in the same refugee camps that their ancestors moved into decades ago. More recently, the refugee problem has been exacerbated with conflicts in Iraq and Syria sending thousands more to the relative safety of Jordan.

Overeducated, Underused

Meanwhile, ethnic Jordanians are not without their own issues. In a society where education is valued greatly, it is not surprising that there is an enormous number of university graduates in Jordan. However, there are relatively few jobs that require such training. As a result, one of two outcomes occurs. For years, the most common fate for an educated Jordanian was to end up working in places like Kuwait or the United Arab Emirates. However, as Westerners have lost their hesitations about moving to such places, the Jordanians are finding themselves being outcompeted. As a result, many return to Jordan to take up work that other university graduates wouldn't dream of doing as a career. To this end, having cab drivers who speak multiple languages and hold advanced degrees in accounting is not a unique experience in Amman, the capital of Jordan.

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