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Maternity Insurance: Jordan

Jordan’s Social Security Law No. (1) reformed maternity insurance to promote workplace gender equality (2014–present)

June 5, 2023
Author: Rabab Hteit

In 2010, the government of Jordan introduced a social security law that aimed to expand social protection through promoting maternity insurance, unemployment benefits, disability benefits, work injury benefits, and life insurance. One of the reforms—maternity insurance—was critical to facilitate women’s participation and meaningful access to work. In 2014, an amendment to maternity insurance changed how the payments were financed. Rather than the employer paying directly to the employee at the time of leave, the cost is covered by small monthly contributions from the employer to the Social Security Corporation (SSC).

Since 1996, women in Jordan have been entitled to 70 consecutive days (10 weeks) of paid maternity leave, and one hour of paid leave per day for breastfeeding for a year starting from the delivery date.1 Prior to the passing of a 2014 law, the cost of maternity leave was paid directly by employers in one lump sum to the employee. This disincentivized employers from hiring women of child-bearing age due to the perceived costs incurred. In 2011, just 14 percent of women were in formal paid employment, compared to 54 percent of men, despite comprising more than half (54 percent) of the university graduates in the country.2

The new law, aimed at increasing the number of women in the workforce, stipulates that maternity insurance is paid to the employee through the SSC, a Jordanian government institution. Employers contribute 14.25 percent worth of all employee salaries to the SSC. A total of 0.75 percent goes towards maternity insurance and the remaining 13.5 percent is put towards unemployment, disability, work injury, and life insurance.

Upon the birth of a child, the mother will receive one payment equal to 70 days of their normal wages from the SCC, thus enabling them to take 70 days of paid maternity leave. The maternity insurance can be accessed by all female employees who are registered with the SSC, regardless of their nationality. This includes non-Jordanian workers who hold valid work permits and are registered with the SSC.3

Implementation

The law was introduced by the Ministry of Labor as a temporary measure in 2010 and was officially legislated on January 29, 2014, as Social Security Law No. (1).4 In 2020, an amendment to the Social Security Law provides a monthly childcare allowance from the Maternity Fund for a period of six months starting from the end of the maternity leave period.5

Cost

Under the new law, the SSC raised USD 46.5 million in maternity insurance between 2011 and 2018, of which USD 16.8 million had been disbursed to new mothers. The surplus was used to fund the expanded child care benefit in 2020.6

Assessment

A study conducted by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 2021 reports that Jordan’s Social Security Law has been effective in retaining women in the workforce. The qualitative study7 also found that all the surveyed women who had benefited from the maternity insurance were able to return to the same job and receive the same wages after their maternity leave. Further, the Social Security Law was found to reduce a gender bias in recruitment and provide the necessary time for women to recover both mentally and physically from pregnancy, to look after their newborn, as well as empower women to make household financial decisions.8

The overall impact on female labor force participation (which the law aimed to address) is difficult to measure, given that the period has coincided with an economic slowdown and a rise in unemployment. However, female employment has decreased by less than that of men between 2010 and 2019. During that period, male employment decreased by 10 percentage points, while female employment only decreased by five percentage points in that period. In addition, the percentage of female contribution to the SCC from the private sector increased from 24 percent in 2011 to 31 percent in 2019.9

However, maternity insurance does not cover medical expenses. The entire amount can consequently be spent on medical expenses when a family does not have medical insurance, leaving women financially dependent on others to cover household expenses. Moreover, the ILO 2021 assessment recommended including a payment “floor” to protect the poorest mothers, and increasing the duration of the maternity leave from 70 to 90 days.10

While the law is an important step towards gender equality in Jordan, its enforcement was met with criticism as some reports show that employers do not always follow the law. Indeed, women’s salaries were underreported at times (meaning that employers contributed less to the fund, and that women did not receive their full pay during maternity leave). They also show that women’s maternity leave was cut short and employers sometimes did not register all of their employees under the SSC. Furthermore, while the law does not allow for women to be dismissed during their pregnancy or maternity leave, some were reportedly fired or demoted after their maternity leave as employers believed their efficiency to have reduced. Maternity insurance also does not cover women working in the informal sector.11

Additional information

The guarantee of maternity insurance is critical for women’s effective access to work.

The majority of employers consider the 0.75 percent contribution appropriate and not a significant financial obligation. However, some employers did express concerns regarding the challenges of securing an adequate temporary employee to cover the maternity leave.

Vector illustration, pregnancy and motherhood,” ©Adobe Stock/y.s.graphicart

References

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