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Unified Cash Transfer Program: Jordan

Reaching out to poor households with cash transfers (2018–ongoing)

May 9, 2024
Author: Molly Hickey and Bryony Steyn

In recent years, the government of Jordan has sought to transition away from universal energy and bread subsidies towards targeted cash transfers. One example is the Unified Cash Transfer program. The program is run by the National Aid Fund, who provide regular and unconditional cash transfers to households living in poverty, as selected by an automated poverty targeting system. The program seeks to reduce income inequality by redistributing resources to the poorest households.

When the government of Jordan removed subsidies on bread in 2018, it sought to support low-income families who would be hurt by the increased cost of living.  As such, the government offered a cash transfer worth between JOD 26 and JOD 33 (USD 37–47) per year to low-income families to offset the increased cost of bread. Low-paid civil servants received an additional JOD 26 (USD 37) with their salaries, while other eligible citizens could receive the support by subscribing to a government website.1 Existing social insurance beneficiaries were offered (JOD 33/USD 47).2 

In 2019, the government formalized the provision of cash transfers, with the launch of a more comprehensive cash transfer system: the Takaful program. In 2022, the government expanded efforts to provide one consolidated and comprehensive program, merging all cash transfer programs, including emergency aid, conditional cash transfers for education, and winter aid. The result was the combined program, the Unified Cash Transfer (UCT). The UCT aims to reduce income inequality by redistributing resources to the poorest families.

By merging many social assistance programs under the UCT, the government has been able to increase efficiency by reducing the duplication of beneficiaries.3 This has enabled it to expand its coverage of the program to cover a larger number of poor people. The World Bank has also supported the government to better identify people living in poverty and thus better target potential beneficiaries.4,5


In 2021, the average cash transfer per qualifying household was JOD 97 (USD 137) per month. From January 2022, the government fixed the cash transfer at JOD 40 (USD 56) for the first household member, plus JOD 15 (USD 21) for each additional family member, up to four people. The majority of households receive JOD 100 (USD 141), which is the maximum transfer for a family of five or more.

The UCT has adopted digital technologies to register households, assess needs, verify data, enroll beneficiaries, and disburse payments. Potential beneficiaries are assessed using proxies for poverty, such as wages, living expenses, electricity and water usage, vehicle registration, business licenses, employment history, and enrollment in other social protection programs.6 These calculations allow the program to compare households and target the poorest first.  In 2022, funds were only available for 120,000 households, and the above methodology allowed the 120,000 poorest households to be targeted.

Applicants are informed of their poverty assessment score, and if they believe they were unfairly excluded from the UCT, they are invited to submit a formal complaint.

The program is aimed at supporting the lowest-income households. However, when funding is available, it also provides support for people with disabilities, the elderly, orphans, households with an incarcerated or missing member, and divorced women.

Digitalization has also driven financial inclusion among the poorest households, as payments are disbursed into bank accounts.  Since 2020, all payments have been delivered via e-wallets or basic bank accounts.  The program also offers training in basic financial literacy to support financial inclusion.

As the government has consolidated its cash transfer programs, it has also sought to unify its beneficiary data into a single database: the National Unified Registry (NUR). This is expected to support the government, through providing efficiency gains, reducing duplication, and reducing administration costs (from multiple overlapping programs), and to support households, by providing a one-stop-shop to enroll in various social assistance programs.  As of early 2023, over 35 government entities were using the NUR.


Between 2019 and 2023, the UCT’s budget doubled from JOD 100 million (USD 141 million) to JOD 240 million (USD 339 million).  The government now spends the equivalent of 0.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on cash transfers.7 Its expansion has been supported by the World Bank, which has offered Jordan USD 990 million in IBRD loans and USD 24.2 million in grants.8


In 2023, Jordan had the largest cash transfer program (in terms of number of people covered) in the Arab region. In 2023, the UCT provided cash transfers to 220,000 households,9 up from 120,000 in 2022.

In 2021, it is estimated that the UCT provided cash transfers to 62 percent of Jordan’s poor10 (defined by the World Bank as those earning less than USD 7.9 per day),11 reduced income inequality (as measured by the Gini index) by 0.7 percent, and reduced poverty by 1.4 percent.12  Improved cash transfer targeting has been hailed as the driver of the UCT’s success in reducing income inequality.13

During COVID-19, the UCT was instrumental in deploying a rapid increase in cash transfers to protect the newly vulnerable, including informal workers. Informal workers were previously illegible for cash transfers under the poverty assessment, but given the lockdown, they were quickly granted access to cash transfers, thereby limiting a sudden increase in poverty and inequality. By being able to use existing infrastructure for quick deployment, Jordan had the largest, and fastest COVID-19 response in the region.14

Yet despite these positive results, there are concerns surrounding the UCT’s poverty assessment. Applicants have complained that they have been penalized for owning a car, small business, or livestock, and as a result, have not qualified for a cash transfer. Further, only Jordanian members of a household are included in the assessment. If a woman is married to a foreign citizen, she is unable to pass on her citizenship (as only men can do this in Jordan). As a result, none of her family members would qualify for the cash transfer.15

View of Amman Hillside with Blanket,” ©Adobe Stock/Trevor