This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Asian Immigrants in Jordan

The discussion over the past few months related to the Middle East has obviously been of the events generally known as the Arab spring, and surrounding that discussion has been the issue of whether or not the violence and conflict have roots in a youth bulge. A report today from the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, DC indirectly suggests that the youth bulge may not have been such a big issue after all. Here's why: An increasing fraction of the labor force in Jordan is composed of Sri Lankans and Filipinos (actually Filipinas--see below), rather than Arabs, who have traditionally made up the immigrant labor force. 

Unskilled and semi-skilled migrant workers from the Arab region have been filling labor shortages in Jordan for decades, shaping its labor market and sustaining its economy. Although Arab nationals still account for a majority of migrant workers in Jordan today, the migration flow to Jordan has changed in recent years with the growing importance of non-Arab migrants from Asia.
Jordan’s census data suggest that the non-Arab Asian population’s share of the total foreign population more than doubled from 7 percent in 1994 to 15 percent in 2004. Among economically active migrants, non-Arab Asians comprised an even larger share, reaching nearly 30 percent by 2004.1A significant proportion of this new migration flow from Asia comes from Sri Lanka and the Philippines, which together account for nearly a third of the total.

The fact that Jordan needs immigrant labor suggests that there is not a bulge of youth in that country who are otherwise unemployed. The fact that other Arab countries cannot fill the jobs suggests that they, in turn, do not have an excess of young people to send off to a neighboring country. The only caveat is that a large fraction of these Asian immigrants are women engaged in domestic labor. "Filipinos and Sri Lankans who received work permits in 2009 were mostly female." It is likely that cultural prohibitions within the Arab world prevent Arab women from taking jobs such as these, and so women from other societies are recruited instead. Another possibility, of course, is that governments and recruiters recognize that it is easier to exploit and send home people from more distant places than it is to do with your neighbors.

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