Monday, 16 January 2023 00:36

Refugees and Host Communities Seeking Self-Employment Opportunities in Jordan - Labour Market Analysis of Rihab (Mafraq), Wadi Musa (Ma'a,) and Quweirah (Aqaba)



Jordan has faced repercussions from global events marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine crisis. The Syrian crisis had already placed tremendous pressure on social infrastructure, natural resources and employment. Rising interest rates combined with a surge in the national budget deficit has suppressed job growth and increased unemployment for both host and non-host country nationals.  According to the Jordan Department of Statistics (DoS), the unemployment rate reached 22.6% during the second quarter of 2022. To understand and map socioeconomic needs, potential resources and stakeholders in three selected locations in Jordan (Rihab, Quweirah and Wadi Musa), ARCS commissioned a consultancy on Labour Market Analysis (LMA) to establish a baseline for livelihood opportunities for self-employment and businesses in the private sector. These target locations were identified based on their unique local cultural heritage and their development potential in the tourism sector. This Labour Market Analysis focused on refugees, women, youth and persons with disability (PwD). 


The SRD study team used randomized sampling to conduct in-person surveys and interviews. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected and disaggregated according to gender, age, and area, as applicable. The LMA collected evidence from a total of 764 individuals including 421 job seekers, 201 business owners, 32 Key Informant Interviews(KIIs) and 110 participants from 8 Focus Group Discussions (FGDs).


The findings section of the LMA is divided into two parts. The first part provides an overview of the key discoveries that emerged during the market analysis. The second part responds to the objectives of this LMA.

  • At the time of this LMA in October 2022, the results depicted a weak business climate in Jordan. On the national level, rising interest rates and high inflation have resulted in an economic slowdown. More than half of the 201 businesses interviewed in this LMA reported slow or stagnant growth in their sector. Business owners said that market uncertainty was their greatest barrier.
  • Evidence from the business survey showed that only4% of the businesses were growing in terms of the number of jobs and income. Rihab reported the greatest growth at 34.1% and Quweirah showed the least growth at 19.4%.
  • The majority of business owners across all sectors were not planning to hire. This was partly due to seasonality within the agriculture and tourism sectors as well as sociocultural preferences for hiring. As it turned out, 46.8% of business owners typically hire through family and friends. This study found that business owners favor non-Jordanian nationalities, especially in the agriculture sector.
  • The tourism sector in Ma’an Governorate showed the strongest growth. Agriculture was seen as the most challenging occupation for self-employment. The handicraft sector showed the most potential, but it was the least developed as a formal occupation.
  • Job seekers responded positively to self-employment opportunities. According to the self-assessment results, 92% of the job seekers identified themselves as being self-confident and determined to succeed in a business. This finding pointed to job seekers’ heightened interest in self-employment opportunities and the need to provide trainings in all geographic areas. However, to be considered employable, job seekers needed technical skills and communication training. In addition, access to financial assistance was needed for business startups.

The Scope of the LMA was to conduct a thorough market analysis and mapping exercise of the socioeconomic needs and employment opportunities in the target locations of Wadi Musa, Quweirah and Rihab. The findings from this LMA provide insight on the viable entry points for making the labour market, for refugees and vulnerable Jordanians, more accessible and inclusive in the target locations. The LMA team compiled key market information that is organized into five separate tables, summarizing the following: 1) Potential Business Opportunities 2) Occupational Interests 3) Skills for Self-employment 4) Obstacles and gaps; and 5) Barriers to Employment. The tables below summarize these findings.


  • The Tourism sector appealed to job seekers. However, many job seekers still lacked technical and communication skills as well as knowledge of the sector necessary for employment. In the agriculture sector, most respondents lacked access to land and financial capital.
  • Agriculture was the least attractive sector due to the lack of land availability, unfavorable policies, lack of price transparency and water scarcity. However, in regard to direct employment, there are opportunities in the sector.
  • The Handicraft sector offered the greatest potential for self-employment. But there appeared to be a need for marketing training in order to unlock this potential.


Recommendations per sector

Based on the LMA findings, the following recommendations are proposed.

Sector One: Tourism and Hospitality

  • To ensure sustainability of ARCS and AVSI livelihoods programs, more collaboration with key stakeholders identified in this study, is advised. This means working closely with NGOs, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Tourism would be needed to strengthen educational and vocational training opportunities for job seekers to improve their technical and communication skills for tourism-related businesses.
  • Provide professional training and certification in cosmetology, spa/skin care and hospitality services.


Sector Two: Agriculture and Agribusiness 

  • At the policy level, a vision must be created in order to incentivize and strengthen farming operations in Jordan. Continuous support must come from Ministry of Agriculture to reduce barriers, such as promoting value added products and building public-private farming alliances, cooperatives to stimulate and sustain growth in the sector.
  • Provide technical assistance and training in horticulture, greenhouse/tree nursery installation as well as business mentoring to attract the younger generation and strengthen workforce capacity.
  • Offer small grants or start-up kits to participants interested in agribusinesses.


  Sector Three: Local handicrafts

  • At the policy level, impose tariffs on imported handicraft goods to protect the Jordanian handicraft sector, creating a pro-local market to sustain self-employed artists.
  • Run national campaigns to promote and market local handicrafts, including craft fairs, exhibitions and art galleries. Also provide handmade stickers “Made in Jordan,” as a trademark, for universal branding and visibility purposes.
  • Provide training to existing artists, working with women and persons with disabilities (PwD) to improve and increase their skills in retail management, customer service and marketing skills, buyer expectations, and presentation.
  • Develop an online network of artists linked with local merchants in the tourism sector.
  • Identify private sector companies to supply local raw materials needed for manual production.
  • Identify hotels interested in showcasing local art and products from local artisans.
  • Establish an exhibition for all artists in the three targeted areas.

The LMA study identified an existing network of local stakeholders (CBOs, trade associations, civil society organizations, cooperatives, local authorities, universities, other formal and informal groups) providing entrepreneurial support. The table below presents stakeholders per area. For more details, see Annex 1.

Networking with the existing organizations would improve the quality and impact of ARCS and AVSI’s livelihood programs in Wadi Musa, Quweirah and Rihab. The organizations and associations listed above could promote livelihoods and community development through financial assistance in the form of soft loans that would complement the technical training and mentoring, crucial for entrepreneurship. Here are some proposed actions that could be undertaken in the target areas.


Recommendations per geographical area

In Wadi Musa, for example, the Wadi Musa Widows and Family Development Association could provide soft loans and mentoring to participants through offering trainings on home-based beauty salons and hospitality management, including English language courses; providing technical trainings greenhouse gardening to allow local growers to supply their produce directly to restaurants and hotels; and engaging handicraft artists in workshops on digital embroidery sewing and marketing.

In Quweirah District, the cooperation with Creativity for Development and Training Center, Al-Humaimah Ladies Charitable Association, and Nashmiyat Dabat Hanont Association is recommended to provide capacity building courses on project management, how to start a small project, and marketing skills, including trainings on cultivation of agriculture products and online marketing

In Rihab District, it is needed to increase information sharing and capitalize on Mafraq Vocation Training Center (VTC), to offer training. To improve access to educational opportunity in Rihab, one recommendation would be to make available a mobile vocational unit (VT caravan) to directly provide training to participants in cooperation with Rehab Gate Charitable Society and Ain Bani Hassan Charitable Society could provide soft loans and mentoring in these areas: Industrial kitchens that add value to dairy production for cheese making and supply of produce from greenhouse gardening for juice making; and training for local artists in sewing, mosaics, embroidery, and plastics recycling as well as in marketing. 

SRD Center (Qasem Newashi & Jean Baker)


Download full report: Refugees and Host Communities Seeking Self-Employment Opportunities in Jordan


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