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Atlas of Jordan

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Myriam Ababsa

Chapter six - Jordan’s Population and Demographic Trends

Demographic Trends

Françoise de Bel-Air et Myriam Ababsa

Texte intégral

Total Fertility Rate

1Jordan is currently in the final phase of its demographic transition. The country first began controlling mortality rates and improving health conditions with foreign aid during the 1950s. In the 1930s, infant mortality affected approximately one quarter of live-born children. In 2007 the kingdom’s infant mortality rate was reduced to 19‰ (the average rate in the Western Asia region is 41‰) (table VI.2).

Table VI.2 — Demographic Indicators from 1961 to 2010.

1961

1979

1994

2004

2010*

Mortality rate (%°)

18

11

5

7

7

Child mortality rate (%°)

122

37

29

22

23

Natality rate (%°)

50

47

32

29

30

Life expectancy (years)

54

62

69

71,5

73

Source: Census 1961, 1979, 1994, 2001. * DOS Estimations 2011.

2The birth rate was at its highest in the late 1970s, when each woman gave birth to at least eight children (JPHS 1979, Khalifa 1985). During the 1980s, fertility rates fell and the average age at marriage rose. The gradual depletion of oil revenues, the first wave of returning expatriates from the Gulf and the liberalization of the economy increased the “cost of reproduction” as household incomes fell and education and healthcare were no longer free and accessible to all.

3It should be noted that this decline in fertility occurred well before the implementation of the first proactive family planning policies during the 1990s. In 1990, 40% of married women already used a form of contraception, compared to 59% in 2009. In the northern Governorates of Jordan the figure is slightly higher, while in the poorest governorates in the south the percentage is lower (only 50% in Kerak) (fig. VI.11).

TFR Total Fertility Rate
Sum of Fertility rates by age at a given date (hypothetical generation).

Final Fertility: Total number of children born to women aged 50-55 (real generation).

Figure VI.11 — Prevalence of family planning methods rate by governorates in 2009 (%).

Figure VI.11 — Prevalence of family planning methods rate by governorates in 2009 (%).

4A comparison of current fertility rates (total fertility rate, or the sum of all fertility rates by age at a given date) and the final number of offspring of women aged over 40 illustrates the rapid evolution in Jordanian fertility over twenty-five years (fig. VI.12). In 2007, the fertility rate was 3.6 children per woman, well below the 5.8 children per woman aged over 40. In 2009, the current fertility rate was 3.8 children per woman, below the 4.9 children per woman aged over 40. It is interesting to note that the fertility rate rose during the economic crisis. However, this trend may result from a problem with the sample used for the 2009 survey on household health.

Figure VI.12 — Fertility Rate and Final Descendance, 1976-2009.

Figure VI.12 — Fertility Rate and Final Descendance, 1976-2009.

5Fertility varies depending on the level of education, but differences are not linear (fig. VI.13). The current fertility rate shows that the most fertile women are not the least educated, but those who reached “Preparatory school” level, with 4.7 births per woman. Illiterate women, who in 2007 had on average one child fewer than women with secondary school or higher education, had the same rate of 4.1 in 2009. Among mothers who had finished child-bearing, the most fertile had completed elementary school. Income levels only played a secondary role for the older generations (final fertility) but clearly influence fertility today (TFR); women with the lowest incomes have the highest fertility rate, with nearly two children more than the wealthiest women (fig. VI.14).

Figure VI.13 — Fertility and Women Education Level, 2009.

Figure VI.13 — Fertility and Women Education Level, 2009.

Figure VI.14 — Fertility by Wealth Quintiles, 2009.

Figure VI.14 — Fertility by Wealth Quintiles, 2009.

6The differences in fertility rates between urban and rural areas have gradually decreased; current fertility in rural areas declined between 2002 and 2007 (from 4.2 to 3.7 children per woman), while in urban areas fertility generally stagnated or increased slightly during the same five years (rising from 3.5 to 3.6 children per woman). Maps of total fertility rates highlight the areas to the east (Mafraq) and the south (Ma‘an, Aqaba and Tafila to a lesser extent). The lowest fertility rate is found in the governorates of Amman (the most urbanized) and Madaba (with its large Christian population). The Governorate of Zarqa were 95% of the population live in urban areas, has a fertility rate of 3.9 children per woman in 2009, close to that observed in the governorate of Amman (3.7 children per woman) (fig. VI.15). The spatial structure of fertility in 2009 thus defies traditional explanations in terms of background, health, education or socio-economic status.

Figure VI.15 —  Total Fertility Rate in 2009 (%).

Figure VI.15 —  Total Fertility Rate in 2009 (%).

7The reduction in fertility in Jordan has been relatively slower than in other countries in the Middle East. In 2000, the total fertility rate was higher in Jordan than in Iran and Egypt, which are far more populated and less urbanized (fig. VI.16).

Figure VI.16 — Total Fertility Rate from 1960 to 2000 in five countries (mean number of children per woman).

Figure VI.16 — Total Fertility Rate from 1960 to 2000 in five countries (mean number of children per woman).

8According to the theory of demographic transition, fertility begins to decline when at least half of the female population is educated. In Jordan, education has progressed much faster than changes in behaviour concerning motherhood. This is due to the low employment rate of women because of remittances from migrant workers. Rising family incomes and the establishment of a welfare state offset the “costs of reproduction” in terms of social infrastructure, and maintained high fertility rates until the early 1980s.

9Women tend to have one child more than desired. This is especially the case for the poorest women, while the gap narrows in the wealthiest categories who manage to obtain their desired fertility (fig. VI.17).

Figure VI.17 — The gap between the wanted Fertility Rate and the total Fertility Rate, 2009.

Figure VI.17 — The gap between the wanted Fertility Rate and the total Fertility Rate, 2009.

10The evolution of the population’s age distribution between 1979 and 2004 reflects demographic trends through changes in age structure (fig. VI.19). The age pyramid for 1979, when fertility was at its highest level, has a broad base that is typical of a young population; the under 15s made up 52% of the total population. The pyramid for 2004 shows that some of these age groups increased the proportion of people of working age (20-45 years old) and that the three youngest age groups (under the age of 15) only represented 37% of the total population. The proportion of people aged over 60 remained low (fig. VI.18).

Figure VI.18 — Jordan Age Pyramids 1979 and 2004.

Figure VI.18 — Jordan Age Pyramids 1979 and 2004.

11Jordan’s population is young, with over a third below the age of fifteen in 2009, compared to half in 1983. The dependency ratio is decreasing, i.e. the ratio between the working population, aged between 15 and 59, and the rest of the population. In contrast, the over 60s age group is growing much more slowly because of poverty (that affects nearly a fifth of the population) and a life expectancy of 72, which is the global average (INED 2011) (fig. VI.19).

Figure VI.19 — Population by broad age groups. Various surveys, 1983 – 2009.

Figure VI.19 — Population by broad age groups. Various surveys, 1983 – 2009.

12The average household size was 5.1 in 2009 (5 in towns and 5.4 in rural areas). Families with more than seven members live mostly in rural areas, especially the badiya, where the rate is twice that for families with more than nine members (12.8% compared to 6.2%) (fig. VI.20).

Figure VI.20 — Household Composition in Percentage in 2008.

Figure VI.20 — Household Composition in Percentage in 2008.

13Average family size varies depending on the subdistrict; from 5 to over 8 members on average in Jafr, in the governorate of Ma‘an; households with 10 or more members made up 12% and single person households represented 4.6% of all households in 2004 (in 1979 they represented 20% and 4% of households respectively). The largest households tend to be concentrated in the steppe areas to the east (Muwaqqar, Rujm al-Shami, Sabha, Deir al-Kahf and Ruweished) and to the south (Jafr, Quweira and al-Mraigha) but also in the Wadi Araba Valley south of the Dead Sea (Safi and Ghor Al-Mazra’). Fertility plays a key role in household size. Nuclear families are the norm today as in the past. According to a 1996 survey, 86% of households were nuclear, a proportion similar to that of the 1979 census (FAFO, HKJ 1997). Although grandparents and relatives often reside in the same neighbourhood or even the same building, they rarely live in the same home.

Figure VI.21 — Household Size in 2008.

Figure VI.21 — Household Size in 2008.

Figure VI.22 — Household Head below thirty years in 2008.

Figure VI.22 — Household Head below thirty years in 2008.

Infant and Child mortality

14Child mortality must be distinguished from infant mortality. The first is the probability of a child dying between its first and fifth birthdays. The second is the probability of it dying before its first birthday.

Figure VI.23 — Trends in child mortality rates in Jordan 1990-2009 and targeted by 2015.

Figure VI.23 — Trends in child mortality rates in Jordan 1990-2009 and targeted by 2015.

15These indicators are measured by interviews with mothers about their birth history, and therefore depend on the accuracy of their memories. The survey conducted in 2007 by the DOS and UNDP on the health of Jordanian households shows that an interval of less than two years between pregnancies increases the risk of infant mortality, as does the child’s birth order; infant mortality is almost doubled from the seventh child upwards. The survey shows that women aged under 20 are twice as likely to lose their child before the age of one.

16Birth order, the interval between births and the mother’s age is more decisive for infant mortality than education or income levels (fig. VI.24).

Figure VI.24 — Infant Mortality by selected demographic characteristics in 2007.

Figure VI.24 — Infant Mortality by selected demographic characteristics in 2007.

The rising age at marriage

17In the Middle East and particularly in Jordan this demographic transition is accompanied by a rising age at marriage for both men and women. In forty years it has increased by five years, rising from 20.4 to 25.4 years of age for women between 1961 and 2004, and from 24.9 to 28.6 for men (fig. VI.25). The stricter application of the ban on early marriages explains the later age for women, while for men the causes are the rise in unemployment of under 25s and the high cost of dowries and apartments. This later age at marriage reduces the reproductive period of women from twenty-five to twenty years, thus reducing their fertility (fig. VI.26).

Figure VI.25 — Singulate mean age at marriage in Jordan, 1961-2004.

Figure VI.25 — Singulate mean age at marriage in Jordan, 1961-2004.

Figure VI.26 — Proportion of 15-19 years-old girls ever married, pregnant or gave childbirth.

Figure VI.26 — Proportion of 15-19 years-old girls ever married, pregnant or gave childbirth.

18Another striking phenomenon over the past generation in Jordan is the increasing number of unmarried women aged 35 to 39. Their number has risen from 5% to 15% in twenty years. These single women have to live with their families, with no independence since they are poorly regarded in Jordanian society, which values marriage and motherhood. Working women contribute to their parents’ household income and gain a certain amount of decision-making power with their fathers and brothers (fig. VI.27).

Figure VI.27 — Percentage of Never-Married Women 15-39 by age.

Figure VI.27 — Percentage of Never-Married Women 15-39 by age.

19In Jordan, Islamic charities and the Ministry of Waqf regularly organize fully funded mass weddings, out of fear that too many young unmarried men and women might destabilize society (de Bel Air 2008 ).

20Polygamy is rare: a 1996 survey estimated that 5.6% of married men were polygamous, most of them being married to two women, a figure that changes with age and level of educational (FAFO, HKJ 1997). In the absence of data, an imperfect indicator of this phenomenon is provided by the proportion of marriages with married men at the registry office. Note that marriages with married men are often followed by divorce, and do not therefore count as polygamy. Despite the rarity of the phenomenon, 1990s figures showed that regions with the most average sized households had the highest rates of polygamy (de Bel Air 2003, p. 385) (fig. VI.28).

Figure VI.28 — Polygyny - percentage of marriages with a married man in 1990-1994 by registration office.

Figure VI.28 — Polygyny - percentage of marriages with a married man in 1990-1994 by registration office.

21Muslim Court records reveal that in 2009 7.5% of marriages were contracted with married men, while the government officially announced the figure to be 5%, the average in the Arab world. The map and graph show that the highest rates of polygamy are in Mafraq (9.8% of marriages), and Aqaba (8%) both of which are on borders and where inhabitants can become wealthy through cross-border traffic and tourism (particularly in the Wadi Ram) (fig. VI.29).

Figure VI.29 — Polygyny - percentage of marriages with a married man in 2009.

Figure VI.29 — Polygyny - percentage of marriages with a married man in 2009.

Consanguinity

22“Consanguinity designates, as a working definition, unions contracted between persons biologically related as second cousins or closer. The consanguinity rate can thus be defined as the frequency of marriage between persons born of sibling pairs or their children” (Conte 2011). Whereas inbreeding concerns only 10% of marriages worldwide, it concerns between 20% and 60% of marriages in the Arab world. In Jordan, 50% of marriages were contracted between first or second cousins in 1991, compared to 39.5% in 2009. By comparison, Syria had a similar rate at 40%, Egypt 30% and Iraq 53% in 2009 (Conte 2011). More than one out of every two marriages is between family members in the governorate of Jerash, which has a large Palestinian refugee camp, and almost one out of two marriages is contracted between cousins in the poor, rural regions of Kerak, Ma‘an and Mafraq (fig. VI.30).

Figure VI.30 — Consanguinity rate by governorate in 2007.

Figure VI.30 — Consanguinity rate by governorate in 2007.

23Several anthropologists have drawn attention to a widespread phenomenon that is poorly researched: marriage by barter or exchange (badal) of sisters or brothers, or of a brother and sister couple with another. This system is said to concern nearly a third of marriages and, although it is not always recorded in surveys, this type of union has implications for the offspring who find themselves doubly linked, halving the number of grandparents (Conte 2011). This type of marriage avoids dowry payments, and is said to prevent domestic violence against women.

24Anthropologists highlight the paradox whereby although fertility rates are declining and the number of cousins is consequently reducing, marriages between cousins or by badal remain very common. This has implications for the notion of individuals and citizens, in a society where individuals are doubly trapped by the bonds of matrimony and kinship. However, when fertility rates drop below 3, inbreeding decreases. The possible negative effects on offspring are considered less important than the social benefits derived from such marriages.

25Edouard Conte highlights the possible consequences of a reduction of the fertility rate to fewer than three children; half of all couples would have children of the same sex. This would call into question the entire system of inheritance. Women who do not marry are nevertheless entitled to inherit from their parents. This puts them under strong pressure from their brothers and uncles to forego their inheritance, contrary to Sharia law. A study carried out in the governorate of Irbid in 2010 revealed that three out of four women do not receive the inheritance to which they are entitled, because they have been forced to sign documents that disinherit them (Al Rai 2010).

Figure VI.31 — Consanguinity rate in the world.

Figure VI.31 — Consanguinity rate in the world.

Tadmouri et al. license BioMed Central Ltd, 2009.

Figure VI.32 — Consanguinity in Jordan in 2007 (% of marriages with a cousin or a relative).

Figure VI.32 — Consanguinity in Jordan in 2007 (% of marriages with a cousin or a relative).

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure VI.11 — Prevalence of family planning methods rate by governorates in 2009 (%).
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5022/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 88k
Titre Figure VI.12 — Fertility Rate and Final Descendance, 1976-2009.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5022/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 88k
Titre Figure VI.13 — Fertility and Women Education Level, 2009.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5022/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 88k
Titre Figure VI.14 — Fertility by Wealth Quintiles, 2009.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5022/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 80k
Titre Figure VI.15 —  Total Fertility Rate in 2009 (%).
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5022/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 156k
Titre Figure VI.16 — Total Fertility Rate from 1960 to 2000 in five countries (mean number of children per woman).
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5022/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 88k
Titre Figure VI.17 — The gap between the wanted Fertility Rate and the total Fertility Rate, 2009.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5022/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 40k
Titre Figure VI.18 — Jordan Age Pyramids 1979 and 2004.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5022/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 36k
Titre Figure VI.19 — Population by broad age groups. Various surveys, 1983 – 2009.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5022/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 44k
Titre Figure VI.20 — Household Composition in Percentage in 2008.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5022/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 128k
Titre Figure VI.21 — Household Size in 2008.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5022/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 176k
Titre Figure VI.22 — Household Head below thirty years in 2008.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5022/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 184k
Titre Figure VI.23 — Trends in child mortality rates in Jordan 1990-2009 and targeted by 2015.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5022/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 80k
Titre Figure VI.24 — Infant Mortality by selected demographic characteristics in 2007.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5022/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 48k
Titre Figure VI.25 — Singulate mean age at marriage in Jordan, 1961-2004.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5022/img-15.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 40k
Titre Figure VI.26 — Proportion of 15-19 years-old girls ever married, pregnant or gave childbirth.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5022/img-16.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 48k
Titre Figure VI.27 — Percentage of Never-Married Women 15-39 by age.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5022/img-17.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 40k
Titre Figure VI.28 — Polygyny - percentage of marriages with a married man in 1990-1994 by registration office.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5022/img-18.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 44k
Titre Figure VI.29 — Polygyny - percentage of marriages with a married man in 2009.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5022/img-19.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 44k
Titre Figure VI.30 — Consanguinity rate by governorate in 2007.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5022/img-20.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 48k
Titre Figure VI.31 — Consanguinity rate in the world.
Crédits Tadmouri et al. license BioMed Central Ltd, 2009.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5022/img-21.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 104k
Titre Figure VI.32 — Consanguinity in Jordan in 2007 (% of marriages with a cousin or a relative).
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/5022/img-22.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 68k

© Presses de l’Ifpo, 2013

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