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Iran's Unemployment Statistics for 2013: Women's Unemployment Rate Rises Further


By Niusha Saremi (source: Rooz Online)

The latest figures published by the Iran Statistical Center indicate that the average rate of unemployment in 2013 for women had risen to be twice as high as those for men. This increase in the ratio between men and women took place while the overall rate of unemployment in the country fell by 1.7 percent in the same year. Furthermore, the employment rate for men grew by 1.8 percent that year while that for women dropped by 1.3 percent.

While news reports have for some time now been reporting a rise in women’s unemployment, not only nothing has been done to create jobs for them but the trend is in the other direction. Some laws have been presented or passed in parliament, such as those relating to “respect for the family” or increasing the leave days for working pregnant women which has exacerbated the situation.

The roots of the growing rate of unemployment among women are the policies adopted by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration. These policies in turn were a response to the speeches and directives issues by the supreme leader of Iran to increase the population growth in the country and reduce the number of women active in the workforce. About two years ago Iran’s leader ayatollah Khamenei had set two conditions for women to work: that outside work should not “take the focus away from a woman’s first job of being at home, with the family and the important role of being a wife and a mother, and the second that the religious issue of respect and boundaries be respected.

Only 12.4 percent of women contribute to the economy

Addressing the gender gap in unemployment had been once of Hassan Rouhani’s campaign promises in 2013. Recent statistics on women’s employment indicate that this situation was actually worse than perceived at the time. According to a report of the Statistical Center of Iran, some 37.6 percent of the country’s population is part of the workforce (which is defined as individuals who are 10 years of age and above). From the above, 63 percent of men and only 12.4 percent of women from the total population formed the labor force. According to these statistics, 10.4 percent of the active population was unemployed and the number of unemployed women compared to unemployed men was much higher in cities and towns compared to the provinces. From amongst the employed population 9.8 percent had flawed jobs, which was higher among men than women. It was also higher in the provinces than in the cities.

Unemployment among women had its roots in the social and economic conditions of Iran. What stood out in these latest statistics was an increase of unemployment among educated women. The rapidly growing number of women who have in recent years been receiving higher education has tremendously increased demand from this sector. But this rise was challenged by the unequal access to jobs among the genders. Fatemeh Rakhshani, a deputy at the ministry of health during Ahmadinejad’s administration made a reference to this during an interview last March when she said, “Increase in education levels of people, and among women, employment of women and the further industrialization of the country have resulted in a slower population growth rate. The policies of the ministry are in line with the positions of the supreme leader.”

"1/3 of Iranian women lose their jobs after their pregnancy leave"
(cartoon by Alireza Pakdel, Etemaad daily)

More Pregnancy Leave: Gain or Curse

Specialists argue that one program which can actually exacerbate the unemployment situation that faces women is the program to give more leave time to expecting mothers. Shahindokht Molavardi, the women’s presidential adviser announced such a plan because of which a third of women who had returned to work after their six month pregnancy leave were laid off. Shahla Aazari, a university sociologist had earlier told Rooz, “We have many people who do not have official employment while they work. There are different categories of employment in private companies and organizations that allow for easy dismissals from employment. In addition, laws and regulations favor the employment of men over women because of the nine month pregnancy leave that women have. She said she knew of women who were afraid to take even a month of leave for fear of losing their job. Women have openly said this.

Sima Asghari, the head of women’s labor union has said that women do not enjoy the benefits of having children and only rely on the pay of the employers. Asghari has said, “We believed that once women become MPs, they will support women’s rights. This is not the case and women are disheartened.

International Labor Organization’s rules clearly say that gender discrimination in the labor force is unlawful.

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