Demographic Transition and Gender Systems: The Case of Jordan and Yemen
Although popular discourse in the West often treats the Arab World as an entity, in reality its countries are as diverse as those that make up Europe or Asia. This chapter therefore focuses specifically on the demographic changes occurring in Jordan and Yemen and links fertility trends and the “youth bulge” to current political developments and prevailing gender systems. It is argued that prevailing patriarchal political systems prevent the development of the type of less-stratified and equitable gender system that is a prerequisite for a balanced demography. That is, it is less gender equality itself that is a key aspect in this process than the social acceptance of a woman’s right to multiple roles, decision-making ability, freedom of movement, and citizenship. This is substantiated by presentation of relevant demographic figures and recent study findings from Jordan and Yemen; both countries with distinctly different Human Development Ranks but with conservative and tribal socio-political systems. Since the early 1970s both countries have significantly reduced their Total Fertility Rate (TFR) from 8.7 to a still high 5.1 in Yemen and 7.9 to 3.6 in Jordan respectively. Despite significant progress in key development indicators Yemen still has a long way to go to provide basic services to the countries primarily rural population to balance its demography. Jordan, on the contrary is able to maintain good and gender equitable health and education coverage for its city based people and still its decline in birth-rate has stalled at a high 3.6 TFR since 2002. The prevailing gender and patriarchal political system in Jordan is a major determinant for this trend. Demographers that have long predicted the risk of social and political upheaval that is associated with the Youth Bulge in the countries of the Arab World need to be persistent in their recommendation for equitable gender systems as important prerequisite for countries to reap the demographic dividend of their youthful population.
KeywordsTotal Fertility Rate Fertility Decline Arab World World Economic Forum Modern Contraceptive
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