3.1% (2015)
GDP Growth

77/187 (2014)
IHDI rank

82.6% (2012)
Urban Population

6.92 million (2015)

1.52% (2015)
Population Growth Rate

2.5% (2015)
Urbanization Growth Rate

15.8% (2015)
Proportion of urban population living in slum areas

Youth population (15-24)

5.4 (2010)9
Average household size (persons)

9.4 (2014)10
Refugee population (% of urban population)

High Levels of Urbanization

The urban sprawl and lack of urban planning in Jordanian cities since the 1960’s has resulted in high costs to guarantee infrastructure and services. Jordan’s cities have grown at a rate parallel with other cities in the MENA region. Doubling, or depending on regional conflict, tripling every 25-30 years has been the latest trend. In that time, many of Jordan’s towns and cities have expanded over some of the country’s most limited and precious natural resources. At the same time scattered, uncoordinated development is becoming more expensive to service and maintain.

Attracted by urban economies, amenities, institutions and educational opportunities, people are transitioning from rural to urban ways of life. Planning for this urban growth is critical as young population matures, and greater demands for jobs, housing, transit and social services will be placed on our urban areas. Rising to this challenge and seizing the economic opportunity requires prudent planning and equitable investment to ensure the needs of future generations are met. There is a disconnect between urban planning efforts pursued by municipalities and infrastructure and service delivery, organized and implemented by central government agencies, making the management of urban development a difficult task. Consequently, urban growth is based on spontaneous land-use planning decisions and partial initiatives, in addition to market and land speculation forces, leaving no choice but for infrastructure to follow up. A concentration of 10 houses is enough to oblige the government to provide road access, electricity, water and street lighting.

Poorly Planned Urbanization

There is a set of laws and regulations that govern and guide urban planning in Jordan. In spite of these regulations, there are several shortcomings and limitations in the regulatory and legal framework for urban planning, as described in the following:

  • Lack of integrated transportation networks and land use planning resulted in reliance on private automobile, leading to traffic congestion, poor transit coverage and an increase in carbon footprint;
  • The absence of a National Urban Policy/ Strategy for Spatial Planning: currently, zoning and subdivision plans are created and approved in the absence of recently (within last 20 years) approved or updated national strategies for spatial planning and regional plans. Also, the absence of a national Geographic Information System;
  • Limited public participation in the planning process and the dependence on the public sector for the provision of jobs as the result of the limited engagement of private sector in urban development;
  • Needs of youth in urban areas: Despite the efforts to promote and activate the role of youth in the development of their communities and to improve their living and economic conditions, some problems remain in view. Such as the increasing rates of unemployment among the educated youth, the failure of education and training systems to keep up with the needs of the labour market, the lack of coordination between agencies supporting young people, poor quality of physical and social infrastructure which would be necessary to help youth occupy their leisure time, in addition to the lack of public budgets directed to the youth sector, and the lack of accessibility by the youth to the activities of cultural and media institutions;
  •  The needs of the elderly: despite the effort exerted to improve the conditions of the elderly in Jordan, they are still facing a number of challenges, such as a negative perception of the elderly by the family and community, the lack of a supportive and safe environment, a lack of social and health services provided in nursing homes, the lack of opportunities for the elderly to participate in their local and general communities in taking the decision related to their well-being, particularly their needs for shelter;
  • Incorporating gender in urban development plans: notwithstanding the strategic plans, policies and legislation designed and applied in the past decades for the purpose of uplifting the women status and enhance their economic, social, and political participation, and to bridge the gender gap in various domains, the status of women’s participation in and contribution to development is still below the level of ambition;
  •  Improving technical capabilities for planning and management of cities: there is a need to improve the technical capacity of city planning in an elaborate scientific, practical future-oriented manner to solve the problems and avoid the emergence of problems;
  •  Inefficient data management systems: Poor employment of demographic indicators in the development planning process, and the lack of accurate and aggregate data on migration;
  • Lack of interest in the use of geographic information systems, development and linkage of the same to planning;
  • The difficulty of systematic and continuous access to information for all and at all levels, and poor capacity building and exchange of experiences, knowledge and expertise in the field of urban planning;
  • Lack of or paucity of qualitative research projects related to urban planning and sustainable land use;
  • The lack of information and data related to environmental and urban development, which often makes the process of evaluating the programs and plans inaccurate in many cases.

Impact of Syrian Crisis

Five years into the crisis the prospects for a prompt return of the millions of Syrian refugees to their home country are remote. Even in the unlikely event of a solution to the crisis, it will take more than a decade for the country to rebuild and for Syrians to resettle. While many refugees will attempt the route to other destinations, the majority are expected to remain in those countries neighbouring Syria that have generously welcomed them for the past five years. For these host nations, the magnitude and longevity of the crisis will likely translate into mounting costs and ever-increasing challenges to the social, economic and political fabric of the country.

Jordan is host to about 1.4 million Syrians, including around 630,000 refugees. While some 82 per cent of all refugees have settled in host communities, particularly in the urban area of Amman and the northern governorates of Jordan, the remaining are hosted in refugee camps. In providing for their needs, Jordan has received support from the international community. Funding however, has not been proportionate to the response requirements and whereas needs are increasing, overall support is decreasing. By October 2015, only 34 per cent of the funding requirements of the Jordan Response Plan 2015 had been committed.

Funding shortfalls have put additional pressures on national services and infrastructure thereby affecting Jordan’s resilience. Eighty-six per cent of Syrian refugee families are either food insecure or vulnerable to food insecurity compared to 48 per cent in 2014. Overcrowded health centres and schools, dilapidated water, sanitation and municipal services, and pressures on the labour and housing markets have left Jordanians feeling increasingly disenfranchised and neglected by response actors. Meanwhile, poor macroeconomic performance and pressure on public spending continues to limit Jordan’s ability to invest in development, ultimately eroding the country’s capacity to maintain its developmental gains and deal with future challenges.

The absorption capacity in urban areas is rapidly being exhausted and in some areas (Mafraq and Irbid) may already have been exhausted. Unlike previous refugee influxes into Jordan, the majority of Syrians who have come to Jordan are poorly educated and possess extremely limited resources, causing them to settle in low-income areas where they have quickly been absorbed amongst the urban poor, competing over limited space, resources and job opportunities.

The influx of Syrian refugees is severely straining the absorption capacity of the Jordanian housing market. Some 600,000 Syrians in Jordan need housing, which translates into approximately 120,000 units.12 The Jordanian housing sector, meanwhile, has produced an annual average of 28,600 units during the period 2004-2011 against a total demand of 32,000 units.13 Moreover, supply is not well aligned with demand, with an oversupply at the middle and upper end of the market and some 18% of the housing stock remaining unoccupied.14 As a result, rental has been the main source of affordable housing for almost half of the poorest 10% of Jordan’s population.15

Environmental Issues

Rather than being a contributor to, Jordan is one of the countries affected by the phenomenon of climate change. Like many developing countries Jordan has begun to suffer from the negative effects of climate change including the increasing temperatures, the increase in drought-affected areas, erratic rainfall, wobbling heat waves, a significant plunge in available water (underground and surface) due to the decline in water flows, thus causing a shortfall of water available for irrigation and thus threatening food shortage, in addition to the impact of climate change on disease patterns and availability of clean water and decent sanitation facilities, the migration of population from the most affected areas, and the impact of all this on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Jordanian citizens, especially in cities are also facing an increasing amount of air pollution. The main challenges in this regard manifest in the increased concentrations of sulphur in diesel,  due to unsustainable patterns of production in the industrial sector, the increased numbers of private cars as people avoid the use of public transportation, poor funding for the expansion of networks for monitoring the quality of air in order to cover all regions of the kingdom

By virtue of its geographical location and human activities in and around the kingdom, Jordan is prone to many risks, including natural hazards such as earthquakes, floods, droughts, the risk of locust invasions, severe weather conditions (blizzards, freezes). Besides natural ones, there are the risks caused by human activities such as fires, chemical hazards including industrial accidents, hazardous materials transportation accidents on the roads, etc., chemical, radiation, and bacterial pollution, armed conflicts and population migrations. One of the most important challenges facing the efforts to reduce disaster risk lies in the limited financial resources, lack of qualified human resources, and the lack of coordination between the agencies involved.