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International Widows Day 2024
International Widows Day 2024
Sunday, 23 June 2024


High Population Council

International Widows Day 2024

High Prevalence of Widows Among Jordanian Women, Low Employment Rates


On the occasion of International Widows Day, observed annually on June 23rd, the United Nations and countries worldwide draw attention to the plight of widows, highlighting their experiences and mobilizing the support they need. This day serves as an opportunity to advocate for the full rights and recognition of widows, whose needs are often overlooked. Globally, there remains a lack of reliable data on widows' access to their legitimate rights, such as inheritance, land and productive resources, pensions, social protection, and decent work. Education, training, and employment opportunities are among the main obstacles to creating policies and programs aimed at combating poverty, violence, and discrimination against widows.

Statistics on Widows in Jordan

  • High Proportion of Widows Among Jordanian Women:

Widowhood extends beyond older women, affecting women before age 60. Overall, the percentage of widows among Jordanian women stands at 7.1%, compared to a mere 0.05% for Jordanian men. Figure 1 below illustrates the significant gender disparity in widowhood rates across age groups. The proportion of widows among women rises rapidly with age, while the current number of Jordanian male widows stands at 1,471, compared to 208,277 female widows[1].

Table 1 shows a clear difference in marital status between elderly men and women aged 60+, highlighting the stark gender disparity. According to the 2015 General Population and Housing Census data a significant difference between genders in marital status among elderly people aged 60 and above.

[1] Source: Civil Status and Passports Department database


The rate of widowhood is much lower for elderly men (around 6%) compared to elderly women (42%)[1]. These statistics are confirmed by the 2022 data from the Civil Status and Passports Department, which shows that widowhood affects 42.8% of Jordanian women aged 60 and above, compared to only 0.4% of men in the same age group. While 94% of elderly men are currently married, only 54% of elderly women are. Additionally, around 43% of elderly women are widows or divorced, compared to only 6% of men.

  • Why do widowhood rates differ between men and women?

Four reasons contribute to the significant gender disparity in widowhood rates:

  1. Life Expectancy: Biological and social factors lead to a difference in life expectancy at birth, favoring women. On average, women live longer than men (75.1 years vs. 72.3 years)[1].
  2. Age Difference in Marriage: Social customs often dictate a significant age difference between spouses, with the husband typically being older. This, combined with the life expectancy difference, means men are more likely to die before their wives, resulting in more widows. The greater the age gap, the higher the likelihood of early and prolonged widowhood for the wife.

Remarriage Opportunities: Widows, especially those with children, face fewer opportunities to remarry than widowers. Societal norms are more accepting of widowers seeking new marriages while frowning upon widows remarrying, regardless of the opportunity. This contradicts


[1] According to the latest statistical bulletin about Jordan issued by the Department of Statistics for the year 2023


  1. international documents[1] [2]that emphasize reproductive health and rights as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being across all ages and related to the reproductive system.
  2. Demographic Imbalance: The number of widowed and single men doesn't match the number of
  3. widows, further limiting their chances of remarriage.
  • Low Remarriage Rates and Incomplete Information

Statistics from 2019-2022 show that despite a higher percentage of widows with increasing age, marriages among women aged 50+ remain significantly lower compared to men. There were 3,042 marriages among these women compared to 12,999 among men in the same age group.

We lack information on the reproductive and sexual lives of the elderly, regardless of marital status, because Jordanian population and family health surveys haven't included this age group. Table 1 reveals that 92% of elderly men are currently married compared to 54% of elderly women. Additionally, around 43% of elderly women are widows or divorced, compared to only 6% of men.

  • Low Economic Participation and Need for Enhanced Social Programs

Economic participation rates for Jordanian widows are low, mirroring the general trend for women. However, the rate is significantly lower among widows (2% in 2022) compared to all Jordanian women (13.9%). The same applies to female-headed widow households, with an adjusted economic participation rate of only 1.9% in 2022. The employment rate for Jordanian widows aged 15 and above is 2.2%, compared to 31.7% for widows heading their households (see Figure 2).

These figures highlight the importance of strengthening social protection programs to ensure a decent standard of living for widows and their families.

[1] World Health Organization, Fifty-seventh World Health Assembly, 2004, defines reproductive health as proposed by the World Health Organization, approved at the International Conference on Population and Development, Cairo, 1994

[2] UN WOMEN, 2019, Promoting gender equality in sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health


Furthermore, governments should take action to fulfill their obligations to ensure the rights of widows as stipulated in international law, including the key international instrument, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Programs and policies should also be implemented to end violence against widows and their children, alleviate poverty among them, and provide other forms of support for widows of all ages.

On this occasion, the Higher Population Council emphasizes that avoiding a significant age gap between the bride and groom at marriage will contribute to reducing the high rates of widowhood among women. Undoubtedly, there is a need to conduct a household survey to understand the living arrangements of the elderly, their satisfaction with their conditions, and the extent to which widows are empowered by having adequate healthcare, education, decent work, full participation in decision-making, and living free from violence and abuse. This will allow them to build a secure life after losing their often-supporting husbands. Crucially, creating opportunities for widows can also help protect their children and avoid the cycle of poverty and deprivation across generations[1].