Jordan Demographics

By | May 18, 2021

The population at a glance

Ethnically mixed, religiously and linguistically homogeneous

The so-called East Jordanian “tribes ” are considered to be formative for society in Jordan. The term “tribes” is also used very often by the Jordanians themselves, but it can be misleading because in fact we are dealing with large families or family associations.

According to historyaah, the vast majority of today’s residents of Jordan are not Bedouins from the region, but the descendants of people who have come as refugees, displaced persons or by forced settlement since the 19th century. This affects the Palestinians, who make up more than half of the population of Jordan, but also the Armenians, as well as the Caucasian Circassians and Chechens. There are also over 100,000 Iraqis living in the country, plus 1.3 million people from Syria. Of these, around 670,000 are refugees registered with the UNHCR. There are also ten thousand Palestinian refugees from Syria. UNRWA is responsible for them.Migration and flight are formative for Jordanian society.

In terms of language, Jordan is relatively uniform: Almost 100 percent of the population speak Arabic. The Muslim population is also quite homogeneous in terms of religion and denomination: Almost all of Jordan’s Muslims are counted as Sunni Islam, although this classification says little about individual religious practice and piety. The few remaining Christians, on the other hand, are very religiously divided. They are distributed among a dozen Christian denominations. In addition, there are tiny groups of Druze, Baha’i, and Yazidi.

The computer science teacher and author Nermina Rifai blogs vividly about the special situation and complex identities of binational families in a multimedia blog of the Goethe Institute.

Age structure

The average age in Jordan is just under 23 years (Germany: 47 years). Married women have an average of 2.8 children. That is one of the highest growth rates in the MENA region. While wealthy women have two to three children on average, poor families often still have four to five children. Almost a quarter of all mothers are between 15 and 19 years of age when their first child is born. Because of the high birth rate, the Jordanian population is very young on average. A third of the population is younger than 15 years, two thirds are younger than 29 years.

Urban-rural relationship

With continued rural exodus, around 88% of the total population now live in cities, the majority of them in Amman, Zarqa and Irbid.

Aqaba, urban center of southern Jordan

Ethnicities and religions

Ethnically and religiously, Jordan is far more homogeneous than most of its neighboring Arab states. Approx. 98% of the population are Arabs (they speak a dialect of Arabic) and around 97% profess Sunni Islam. About 2 percent of Jordanians belong to various Christian churches, most of the Greek Orthodox branch. In second place are the Greek Catholic Melkites united with Rome. In general, the Christian denomination in Jordan is characterized by a strong loyalty to the royal family, which becomes clear, among other things, in the Jerusalem question.

A study on religious education in Jordan highlights that the Jordanian public education system in part propagates a problematic understanding of Islam that is based on Salafist sources and that fundamentally contradicts the liberal Islam of the royal family (“Amman Message”). In Jordanian textbooks for state primary and secondary schools, Islam is often promoted as the only true religion; Christians appear only marginally.

The Bedouin way of life is very public in Jordan, but quantitatively on the decline. It is estimated that less than one percent of the population still live as nomads or semi-nomads. Nevertheless, because of their loyalty to the (non-Bedouin) Hashemites, the families of Bedouin continue to enjoy a special position in the political system, as do the other minorities in the country. In addition to Armenians, Kurds and Baha’i of Iranian origin, this also includes the Sunni-Muslim Circassians and Chechens, who have been settled by the Ottomans since the 19th century from the Caucasus. The Bedouins are over-represented in the desert police and in parts of the army (counterinsurgency). The Circassians, who were among the first residents of the modern city of Amman and who were already loyal to Jordan’s founder, Abdullah I, are now disproportionately represented in the security services, the police and higher administration. The Chechens also traditionally enjoy a special position. Due to the involvement of Chechen Islamists in al-Qaeda terror structures, the relationship of trust has suffered. Fixed seats are planned for Bedouins, Caucasians and Christians in the Jordanian parliament.

Jordanians or Palestinians?

Almost 60 percent of the population of Jordan is of Palestinian origin, of which a good half are registered Palestine refugees. Relations between Palestinians and Jordanians are ambivalent. Although Palestinians now make up more than half of the total Jordanian population and the Jordanian economy is existentially dependent on the capital and know-how of the people of Palestinian origin, the Palestinians are not adequately represented politically. Access to posts in the public service and the security forces is possible, but difficult. The residence status of the Palestinians is not uniform. Some of the Palestinians living in Jordan feel increasingly threatened by statelessness again.