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Atlas of Jordan

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Myriam Ababsa

Chapter six - Jordan’s Population and Demographic Trends

Changes in the Regional Distribution of the Population

Myriam Ababsa

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1For centuries, the settling of communities in modern Jordan was concentrated in the highlands and in the Jordan Valley (in the north-west of the country) leaving arid regions unpopulated. From the twentieth century, natural population growth and migration as well as improved irrigation techniques and road networks led to the settling of more than a hundred communities beyond the Ma‘mura, in areas with less than 250 mm annual rainfall, which do not allow rain-fed dry farming. During the twentieth century, the implantation of communities spread considerably in the Jordan Valley with the arrival of Palestinian refugees and improved irrigation techniques. Settlements also spread towards the east, with the proliferation of well drilling in the areas of Mafraq and Azraq, and along the road to Iraq. So although most communities still settled in areas with sufficient rainfall, this was no longer always the case (fig. VI.1).

Figure VI.1 — Correlation between rainfall and population distribution.

Figure VI.1 — Correlation between rainfall and population distribution.

2To study urban growth and rural depopulation, each Jordanian community or rural group (tajamu sakani) (defined by the Department of Statistics during the general population census) was geo-referenced using 1:100,000 scale RJGC maps, for the last three censuses of 1979, 1994 and 2004. Due to the amalgamation of municipalities and the grouping of districts, the total number of localities dropped from 1,137 in 1979, to 1,102 in 1994 and to 1,032 in 2004.

3Figure VI.3 shows the proportional size of localities. The total population of the Greater Amman Municipality includes all the communities in the area. Half of Jordan’s population is concentrated within the Amman-Ruseifa-Zarqa conurbation (3 millions out of 6.3 million inhabitants in 2011). Amman is Jordan primate city as its population is four times that of the second city, Zarqa, and seven times that of the third largest city, Irbid (255,083 inhabitants in 2004). The country’s population density is 69 inhabitants per square kilometre. But 80% of the country has fewer than five inhabitants per square kilometre (roughly everywhere below the 100 mm isohyet). The entire population lives in an area of less than 10,000 km², giving a true density ten times higher: over 650 inhabitants per square kilometre. The northern governorates, with less desert areas, have densities of over 300 inhabitants per km² and the figure reaches 962 in Irbid. Kerak and Tafila are in the mountains and have suffered from population drift towards the capital; they have respective population densities of 68 and 39 inhabitants per km². In the cities, population density reaches world records with over 30,000 inhabitants per km² in the poor areas of Amman and Zarqa (fig. VI.2).

Figure VI.2 — Jordan Population Density by Governorate in 2010 (inhabitants per km2).

Figure VI.2 — Jordan Population Density by Governorate in 2010 (inhabitants per km2).

Figure VI.3 — Jordan Population Distribution in 2004 (proportional representation).

Figure VI.3 — Jordan Population Distribution in 2004 (proportional representation).

Increasing Urbanization

4Jordan’s population became significantly urbanized during the sixties, reaching a rate of urbanization of over 80% in 2011. The two main reasons were rural depopulation and the arrival of waves of Palestinian refugees and displaced persons who mostly settled in the larger towns of Amman, Zarqa, Irbid and Ruseifa, where UNRWA camps and services had been set up.

5Figures VI.4 to VI.6 show the country’s increasing urbanization between 1979 and 2004. In Jordan the urban threshold is set at a population of 5,000. Note that the localities that are caza (subdistrict) centres are considered as towns, regardless of their size. Jordan is characterized by a dense implantation of small towns (with populations of 5,000 to 10,000), which have more than doubled in number over twenty-five years (rising from 26 to 67 towns) (table V.1).

Table V.1 — The distribution of population according to locality size.

Locality size

1979

1994

2004

> 250 000 inhabitants

1

2

3

100 000 - 250 000

2

2

1

50 000 - 100 000

0

5

5

10 000 - 50 000

15

33

45

5 000 - 10 000

26

53

67

1 000 - 5 000

205

268

298

< 1000

898

723

524

1137

1102

1032

Source National Population and Housing Census

6The number of medium sized towns has tripled (from 15 to 45), mainly in the north and the Jordan Valley. The number of large towns with between 50,000 and 100,000 inhabitants remained stable (five towns) between 1994 and 2004, because in 2004 the Greater Amman Municipality incorporated the eleven fast-growing outlying communities of Abu Nusayr, Shafa Badran, Jubeiha, Sweileh and Tareq in the north, Tala Ali, Badr Jadida and Wadi Sir in the west, Um Qusayr and Kherbet al-Souq in the south and Quweisma in the east.

7The urban population of Amman has tripled and that of Ruseifa has risen tenfold since the early 1980s - which coincided with the implementation of structural adjustment policies, with the rise of youth unemployment and the arrival of 300,000 Jordanians of Palestinian origin expelled from the Gulf in 1991. The town of Irbid has expanded and absorbed outlying communities. In contrast, the southern cities of the country have remained stagnant: Kerak’s population rose by only 800 inhabitants between 1994 and 2004 (rising from 18,866 to 19,696), Tafila’s rose by 2,500 (from 20,881 to 23,420) while Ma‘an’s fell from 26,731 to 26,124 inhabitants over the same period, reflecting the population drift towards urban areas as well as the crisis in southern Jordan.

Jabal Amman Wadi Hadada.

Jabal Amman Wadi Hadada.

C. Durand

Figure VI.4 — Jordan Population Distribution in 1979.

Figure VI.4 — Jordan Population Distribution in 1979.

Figure VI.5 — Jordan Population Distribution in 1994.

Figure VI.5 — Jordan Population Distribution in 1994.

Figure VI.6 — Jordan Population Distribution in 2004.

Figure VI.6 — Jordan Population Distribution in 2004.

Rural Depopulation in the South and Urban Growth in the North

8To calculate the average annual growth rate between 1979, 1994 and 2004, the 2004 figures for subdistricts have been superimposed onto the map showing the localities in 1979 and 1994 in order to compare them in each area. Between 1979 and 1994, the fertility rate was still high and average growth rates were over 3.9% per year. The less populated areas to the east and the south of the country had growth rates above 5%, while Greater Amman became a huge building site with an average annual growth rate of over 10%.

9Between 1994 and 2004 the country’s average annual growth rate was 3%. The fertility rate decreased, and rural populations continued to abandon the poor areas of the Jordan Valley (suffering from changes in the agricultural sector) and the governorate of Tafila (suffering from a lack of productive investment). Greater Amman continued to grow at over 6% per year (fig. VI.7).

Figure VI.7 — Population Annual Average Growth Rate by Subdistrict, 1979-1994.

Figure VI.7 — Population Annual Average Growth Rate by Subdistrict, 1979-1994.

10The figure VI.8 shows the strengthening of the Amman Governorate (over half of which is occupied by the Greater Amman Municipality) especially between 2007 and 2011 when the municipality spread a further thirty kilometres to the south, thus including the airport.

Figure VI.8 — Population Annual Average Growth Rate by Subdistrict, 1994-2004.

Figure VI.8 — Population Annual Average Growth Rate by Subdistrict, 1994-2004.

11The 1994 national census showed that the Amman and Zarqa cities were the main “importers” of rural population (+56 %); ten years later, the 2004 census showed that Aqaba ,which was turned in 2001 into a liberalized, low tax duty-free and multi–sector development zone (the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority - ASEZA) recorded the highest immigration rate (25.7 %) (DOS, October 2006:5).

12The three governorates of Amman, Zarqa and Irbid account for two thirds of the Kingdom’s population (4.4 million out of 6.3 million in 2010). They are the economic driving force of the country with over 80% of domestic firms. Their population growth rate is the highest at over 3% per year compared to 2.3% for the country as a whole (fig. VI.9). The three governorates also attract the most foreign workers and internal migrants, as shown in figure VI.10 which shows the birthplaces of Jordanians in each governorate, this data is used here to compensate for the lack of census data on internal migration. It shows that the Amman Governorate has the most inhabitants born in other governorates (100,000 people born in the governorates of Zarqa, Irbid and Balqa), followed by Zarqa, where 10% of the population was born in Amman, and Irbid where less than 5% of the population was born in Amman. The graph also shows that more than half of the 600,000 Jordanian expatriates were born in Amman, followed by those born in Irbid, Zarqa and Balqa‘.

Figure VI.9 — Jordan Population by Governorate in 1994, 2004 and 2010.

Figure VI.9 — Jordan Population by Governorate in 1994, 2004 and 2010.

Figure VI.10 — Distribution of Jordanian Population living in Jordan by place of birth in 2004.

Figure VI.10 — Distribution of Jordanian Population living in Jordan by place of birth in 2004.

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure VI.1 — Correlation between rainfall and population distribution.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5021/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 172k
Titre Figure VI.2 — Jordan Population Density by Governorate in 2010 (inhabitants per km2).
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5021/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 164k
Titre Figure VI.3 — Jordan Population Distribution in 2004 (proportional representation).
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5021/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 128k
Titre Jabal Amman Wadi Hadada.
Crédits C. Durand
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5021/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 56k
Titre Figure VI.4 — Jordan Population Distribution in 1979.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5021/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 160k
Titre Figure VI.5 — Jordan Population Distribution in 1994.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5021/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 180k
Titre Figure VI.6 — Jordan Population Distribution in 2004.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5021/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 180k
Titre Figure VI.7 — Population Annual Average Growth Rate by Subdistrict, 1979-1994.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5021/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 176k
Titre Figure VI.8 — Population Annual Average Growth Rate by Subdistrict, 1994-2004.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5021/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 176k
Titre Figure VI.9 — Jordan Population by Governorate in 1994, 2004 and 2010.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5021/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 56k
Titre Figure VI.10 — Distribution of Jordanian Population living in Jordan by place of birth in 2004.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5021/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 49k

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