The report from the annual government campaign during Ramadan to reduce street begging has resulted in the detention of 1,500 people, half of them under the age of 18, under “government protection”. 1,500 people in one month. “Government protection” or “protective custody” is more or less being detained until a judge hears your case. When that actually happens is of course a variable but if the court feels the juvenile is neglected they remain under “protective custody” until the family is “reformed”. It’s more of a pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of policy. While the juveniles do receive food, water and an education in the facilities, I’m inclined to believe it’s not much better than being on the street. So what’s the point? How is the family supposed to reform itself if they are still caught in the cycle of poverty? Does the detention of one of their children make a difference?
Keeping in mind that the poverty line is defined as anyone earning less than $140 or about 100JDs. The government states this represents 15% of the population but most unofficial numbers (that are taken more seriously) say itÃ¢??s as high as 30%. Average earnings through begging seem to be around 20JDs in a single day. That’s about 600JDs a month and even half that is still better than the minimum wage which I believe stands at 110JDs.
Back in the summer, begging experienced an upsurge in numbers as kids who were off from school took to the street. I can’t help but quote Mohammad Elian, a ministry inspector, who said back then “We pick kids up off the streets, but as soon as we release them, they return again.”
The point is that detaining children, even for their “own good”, and sooner or later releasing them, is just plain ineffective. In fact it makes little sense given the fact that the government will probably spend more money implementing this policy. Not to mention that detaining kids who tend to act as partial breadwinners only suspends what income they make from begging, which of course makes it that more difficult for families to pick themselves up from their bootstraps.
Begging will never cease to exist without the provision of jobs and more importantly a sustainable income. If someone earns in the realms of 500-600 JDs a month from begging they are by default making more than the average teacher, police officer, sanitation worker or clerk. There is no incentive to become educated and there is no incentive to seek out an actual job, as difficult as both tasks seem to be in Jordan.
Moreover, as it is doubtful that we will ever see the average wages reach the 500-600JDs bracket; there are better alternatives to reduce poverty and thus begging. The current funds used for detaining an individual can instead be converted into a government subsidy for families who place juveniles in apprenticeship programs to be trained as, for instance, mechanics (who actually make a lot in Jordan).
But the current policy of simply detaining someone and then inevitably releasing them back to the streets doesn’t seem to be working.