Women and the EconomyGOs of the I.R.I



Historical and cultural background of Iran, and economic independence of women

in Islamic Sharia has recognized women’s ownership since long ago and has always

been respected.

The Holy Wife of the Prophet, Khadijeh, was a famous businesswoman, who allocated

all her money to invite people to Islam. Having these models, historically,

women have been involved in income generation and business as the most traditional

occupation for women.

Presence of good practices such as preventing waste and control over expenditures

are some of the good characteristics of women.

Moreover, Islamic Law and civil rights and right for business in Iran honors and

respects women’s ownership over their property and doesn’t consider them responsible

for family expenses and has considered wage for housework and breast-feeding.

Patriarchy has deprived women from al their economic rights and women are

always economically dependent to men.

Demographic changes and increasing number of young girls seeking jobs, migration

to big cities and change of economic patterns, increasing level of education of

women and increasing occupational demands and needs, change of traditional models

and roles of women in the family and desperate need of middle income families

to have two income sources leading to simultaneous employment of the couple have

drawn governmental programmers and implementers, other beneficiary groups

especially NGOs rendering services attention to women’s role in economic development

along with sustainable development. Also, serious efforts of governmental

leaders to eliminate poverty and supporting vulnerable groups have created more

occupational opportunities for women.

The positive aspect of women’s employment in Iran is: immunity of laborers from

affects of globalization of economy. This process is due to major an anti oppression

policies of the country.

The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Article 3 :

12.the planning of a correct and just economic system, in accordance with Islamic

criteria in order to create welfare, eliminate poverty, an(i abolish all forms of deprivation

with respect to food, housing, work, health care, and the provision of

social insurance for all;

Article 28

Everyone has the right to choose any occupation he wishes, if it is not contrary to

Islam and the public interests, and does not infringe the rights of others. The gov-

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ernment has the duty, with due consideration of the need of society for different

kinds of work, to provide every citizen with the opportunity to work, and to create

equal conditions for obtaining it.


The twenty years vision of the country:

Iran reached the first economic, scientific and technology levels in South West Asia

region (including Middle East, Caucas, and other neighboring countries) emphasizing

on software movement and science production, accelerated and continuous economic

growth, relative increase of per capita income and reached complete employment.

Charter of Women’s Rights and Responsibilities

98. Woman’s right to receive fee from the husband for housekeeping upon her

request and right of supporting woman’s efficiency resulting from her housekeeping

on family economics and national income

93. Right to determine and receive marriage portion from the husband and having

a say regarding it

104. Women’s right to enjoy equal salary and benefits, in conditions equal to men

and other women;

107. Right to enjoy facilities, standards and rules proportionate to women’s family

(as a wife and mother) responsibilities in their hiring, employment, promotion and

retirement during the period of employment

99. Right of ownership of personal property and benefit from it with the observance

of legal and lawful limits

Current Situation and Achievements

Women’s economic rights and independence in employment




Economic Rights and Independence of women in employment

According to Article 6 of the Labor Law of the Islamic Republic of Iran, derived

from 19, 20, and 28 principles of the constitution, forcing people to work in a special

field or abuse is prohibited and people of Iran, from any tribe or race, should

enjoy equal rights and race, color and language will not bring advantage from anybody

and men and women should be supported equally by law and every body is

allowed to choose the job he/she likes in case it is not against Islam and public benefit

and right.

Prohibition of hard and harmful labor for women

In the Labor Law of the Islamic Republic of Iran there has been a special attention

to women. According to the Article 70 of the above law, it has been prohibited for

women to do hazardous, hard and harmful works and also carrying heavy things

without using mechanical devices for women labors. (the agenda and also identification

of type and amount will be suggested by the Labor High Council and will be

approved by the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs.)

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The Labor Law of the Islamic Republic of Iran does not only permit the employer

to fire pregnant women but it gives special attention to them. A part of this law is

described below:

Maternity leave for female labors will be 90 days. At least 45 days of this leave

should be used after the labour. For delivery 14 days will be added to the following


After the maternity leaves become to an end, the laborer will be back to work and

this time will be considered as the service period in the archives with the approval

of the Social Security Organization.

The Salary of maternity period should be paid according to the regulations of the

Social Security.

If the physician finds out that the work is hard or hazardous for the pregnant laborer,

then the employer should give her a more comfortable task until the end of

maternity without deducting any amount from her salary.

In workshops where there are many women laborers, half an hour time is given to

mothers out of every three hours to breastfeed the baby. This time will also be considered

as their working hour. The employer should also establish a center for children

such as nurseries according to the number of children and their ages.

Working security processes

The Labor Law insists that any dispute between the employer and the employee or

interns regarding the implementation of the Labor Law and other regulations such

as agreements or contracts should be solved also among them at the first stage or it

should be discusses among the Islamic Labor Council and if it is not settled, it will

be discussed by the high level officials.

The Judiciary should implement the proclamation issued from the labor authorities.

This regulation is valid for men and women including labor women and pregnant

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Prohibition of forced labor and child labor

According to the regulations of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Labor Law, it

is prohibited to hire individuals under 15 years of age and is only permitted for the

age of 15 to 18 with the physical permission of the Social Security Organization

every year. The physician identifies the type of job and also the physical ability of

the teen aged laborers. If the physician prescribes that the work is not suitable for

the teenager, then the employer should change the task.

The working hours of a teen aged laborer is half an hour less than the regular laborers.

Referring any kind of extra task to the laborer and also asking them to work during

nights and also hard and hazardous tasks and carrying unlimited weight without

mechanical devices is strictly prohibited for teenager laborers.

In those jobs that do not match the health situation or the moralities of the teenager,

the minimum age of laborer should be 18. This will be identified by the Ministry

of Labor and Social Affairs.

Some cases regarding the freedom of establishing communities and also mass consultation:

In the implementation of Article 26 of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Constitution

and in order to preserve the legal rights and benefits of the laborers and also

improve the economic situation of employees and employers, the employees working

under the Labor Law can establish a Labor unity.

Also the salaries of both men and women should be equal and without any discrimination.

Provisions of Services for Urban and rural women

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, there have been many efforts to reduce unemployment

in the society. There have also been activities to pay loans, organizing technical

and professional trainings and services. One of these activities, which is specially

for women, is a project called Hazrate Zeynab and is implemented with the cooperation

of Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation and Bank of Agriculture. According

to this project, a loan will be given to those rural women headed households in the

fields of agriculture and handicrafts.

Now we will consider the social and economic indicators of women according to

the Beijing Platform for Action.

Activity Rate

Strategic goals of the Beijing Platform for Action (V2), Equal facilities for

women to sources, employment, markets and trade

Considering the population of 10 years and comparing it to the population of

employed and unemployed, the activity rate can be calculated. This activity rate is

an indicator, which has relationship with the growth of the population. The activity

rate changes due to the inactive population such as number of students and housewives.

It means if the population growth increases or decreases, this rate also varies.

Employment and unemployment Rate

The rate of employment and unemployment is calculated according to the ratio of

employed and unemployed population to the active population. In 2001, since the

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population was growing fast, then in the decade of 60 the number of those looking

for a job increased comparing to the number of jobs. This caused a decrease in the

rate of employment. In 2004, with the efforts of the government, the employment

status became better and reached 90 percent. In other words, the rate of unemployment

was 9 percent in 1996, 14 percent in 2001 and 10 percent in 2004. This ratio

has been different among men and women. The ratio of unemployment among

women has been 1.5 to 2 times more than the rate among men. In 1996, the rate of

employment among women has been 13 percent, in 2001 about 20 percent and in

2004 17 percent. The rate of unemployment has been high among youth. In 2004,

the rate of unemployment among young people of 20 to 24 years of age has been

25 percent. Out of this number 22 percent has been for men and 42 percent for

women. The ratio of unemployment for female youth has been two times more compared

to the men.

One of the reasons is that men are usually the heads of families and are looking for

jobs more than women. Second reason is that women have less job varieties and

according to the Labor Law they can not do hard and heavy tasks. The third reason

is that some women tend to stay at home after their marriage and take care of the

family tasks. The is the reason that the rate of unemployment is 2 times more than

the rate among men. During the last years, the level of education has increased

among women and more women are looking for job and this is another reason for

their high unemployment rate.

Average working hours

Employed women work fewer hours than employed men. The average of working

hours has increased in 2004 compared to 1997. In 2004, about 8 percent of women

work less than 22 hours per week. 68 percent of women work between 22 to 49

hours per week and 24 percent work 50 hours a week. These figures are 2, 8.9 and

59 hours for men.

Working Age

The working age is higher in 2004 compared to year 1997. The working age for men

is lower than women. In 1997, about 30 percent of women started their jobs before

the working age. In 2004, this figure has reached to 22 percent. This figure is 25 and

21 percent for men. In 2004, about 5.74 percent of men and 3.58 percent of women

entered the job positions at the age of 15 to 24.

Family and Social Status of Working Women

Most women work in general sectors or for other members of the family. In 1997

only 7.0 percent of women were employers and only one individual was paid with

a salary. In 2004, this rate reached 3.1 percent. The ratio of employers for men has

been five times more compared to women.

In 1997, more than 32 percent of women, worked for family members without being

paid. This number has increased in 2004 and has reached to 34 percent. This ratio

has been only 4 percent for men.

Also women who were employed in governmental and public sectors were 33 percent

in 1997 and this figure reached 31 percent in 2004.

Inactive Population

The inactive population consists mostly students and housewives. Most women are

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housewives and most men are students.

In 1996, about 44 percent of inactive population consisted students. In 2004, this

figured reached 42.5 percent because of decrease in population growth. This situation

sows that the increase in the level of education among women decreased the

number of female students in the society. In 1996 to 2004, the ratio of male students

decreased from 77 percent to 71 percent (6 percent decrease). This decrease has

been less than one percent among girls. In 2004, about 29 percent of inactive

women were students. This number is 70.9 among men. The high number of inactive

women shows the small number of student girls meanwhile the number of girl

students is a little bit less than the male students. In 1996, 65 percent of inactive

women were housewives. This number reached 67 percent in 2004. In 2004, only

10 percent of men had income without having a job and were retired. This figure

has been only 3 percent among women.

Women’s Conditions as Head of Household




Tables 7 and 8 show the number of family members and the situation of head of

families (men and women). The number of families who are women headed is very

little. In order words, 86 percent of women headed families had less than 5 family

members. According to the table 7, most women headed families had only one

member. In 1997 and 2004, 35 and 39 percent of women lived alone and this figure

has been 2 percent only among men.

Government’s Actions

Allocation of 0.25% of the active funds of the province to women’s issues

Increasing gender sensitivity among governmental organizations in the fields of

research and evaluation systems

Efforts of Support Fund of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs to implement

vocational trainings for women.

Enhancing self-employment

Increasing number of funds to develop women’s employment (Ministry of Labor

and Social Affairs)

Focus of various governmental sections (Ministry of Interior, Ministry of

Cooperatives, Ministry of Agricultural Jihad) on center for women for entrepreneurship

Enhancing and developing women’s cooperatives or supporting cooperatives with

more than 70 percent female members

Enhancing rural women’s associations (Ministry of Agricultural Jihad)

Empowerment of women as head of family and allocating banking facilities and job

opportunities to them

Implementing insurance programs for women

Women’s NGO Activities

According to the report of 220 women NGOs from all provinces, 162 activities

have been undertaken in the field of women and economy. Most of the activi-

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ties have been capacity building for women and less has been done for communication

and networking.

Holding conferences and seminars to advocate entrepreneurship and women’s role

in economy.

Holding training courses and empowerment for women to develop entrepreneurship

and income generation.

Meetings with authorities regarding women’s employment policies.

Exhibitions and bazaars to sell women’s productions.

Research and studies

Printing materials and publications.

Preparing scientific articles.

Creating workshops.

Submitting various empowerment and self employment and entrepreneurship proposals

for women to governmental in international organizations.

Creating systems of micro credit for women in different levels.

Creating small income generation workshops for women.

Implementing income generation plans in various cities for unemployed and

deprived women, women as head of family, rural women, graduates of technical

fields and disadvantaged families.

Financial support to working women.

Establishment of libraries

There is a meaningful and appropriate link between capacity buildings and using

these capacities for service delivery in women’s NGOs but in the field of developing

resources still traditional methods such as small bazaars are being used which

are unable to compete with formal market. Also there is a significant weakness in

communication, which can be observed in orthodox activities and lobbying with the


Women’s NGOs have not considered the role of private sector and objective communication

with them while advocating social responsibilities among commercial

organizations has been one of the main responsibilities of the NGOs. This has leaded

to a significant weakness in defending and supporting rights of women to eliminate

discriminative approaches of the employers.

Activities undertaken by women NGOs shows that they have mainly used capacity

building and service rendering patterns of the government for its income generation

programs and considering the existing capacities and needs of people they should

be more innovative considering the Beijing Platform for Action document for millennium


Women’s NGOs measures in the process of empowerment rely on settling practical

needs whereas they should focus on strategic vocational needs. These gaps, on one

hand, are due to the increasing expectations of educated women and its increasing

number and on the other hand results from growing population and lack of vocational


In the field of micro comers and its ability to compete with bigger market, NGOs

should focus on their internal capacities especially at the level of pre and post allocation

of credits.

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Fourth National Development Plans

Fourth Development Plan of the country:

Training courses during services according to the kind of occupation of the staff to

promote level of efficiency and vocational skills (specially for women), through

short term trainings (chapter 6, Article 54).

Provisions for special insurance systems (as support activities) for supporting

women as heads of families and individuals with no bread winner giving priority to

orphan children (chapter 8, section g Article 96).

Provisions for empowerment of self sufficient women or women headed households

in collaboration with other relevant organizations and NGOs and obtaining the

approval in the board of ministers during the first six months of the first year of the

plan (chapter 8, section y, Article 97).

Fundamental right to work (freedom of associations, defending civil organizations

over working relations, right to organization and group negotiation, prohibiting discrimination

in employment and vocations, observing minimum age of work, prohibition

of child labor, observing minimum wage in accordance with minimum standards

of life) (chapter 8, section a, Article 101).

Expanding social supports (social services), unemployment insurance, creating

opportunities of development and reinforcing compensation mechanisms, social

support to those involved in informal work market, rehabilitation of disabled individuals,

equality of opportunities for women and men and empowerment of women

through access to employment opportunities) (chapter 8, section g, Article 101).

Empowerment of youth, women, educated people and those seeking employment to

build social understanding to form and direct activities toward cooporative units

(chapter 8, section a, Article 102).

CNWN Actions

Providing proposals and legal reform plans aiming to review and amend civil laws

and offering comments and mechanisms in this regard such as insurance for housewives

and direct plan of fair equivalent remuneration for women whose husbands

are dead.

Training and participatory workshop on micro credits parallel to the Summit of the

Organization of Islamic Countries with the presence of Mrs. Anan, Secretary

General’s wife.

Plan and efforts for creating assistant funds for NGOs.

Challenges and Constraints

Expectations increase among educated women and beside other factors it causes

increased unemployment of women which is almost double of the amount for men

Ratio of inactive women who are mostly housewives is very high.

Allocating micro credits and grants for self-employment of women has not been

efficient in mitigating women’s unemployment since men use these facilities more

than women.

Level of women’s activity is only 12 percent and this ratio is very low for a country

willing to step for social and economic development.

Working women contribute 14 percent of working forces in the country and this

ratio is very low for the economic future of women at old ages.

More than one third of working women, work unpaid for their family members

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where they don’t enjoy retirement opportunities.

Recommendation to the Government

Though government has put its efforts on implementing social and economic justice

especially to facilitate women’s employment, more strategic focus is needed in

the field of women’s control over resources.

Promoting credit and grant allocation and traditional saving systems for women.

Prohibiting those regional or international commercial agreements affecting

women’s traditional or modern economic activities.

Promoting laborer and entrepreneurship women in policy making and economic

and financial structures.

Sustainable support to women in technical fields, management and funds.

Promoting evaluation and monitoring mechanisms in all areas: over provincial

funds of implementing organizations for women’s issues, facilitating measures,

capacity building, and methods of developing women’s employment.

Promoting objective collaboration regarding income generation for women with

private sector and unions.

Reinforcing economic and income generation empowerment programs for rural

women through facilitating access to production resources, land, funds, capital,

right to property, development programs and cooporative structures and control

over them.

Gender sensitive guarantees in implementing the Labor Law to eliminate discriminatory

approaches of employers.

Supporting reforms and short comings of the Labor Law to ensure support of all

laborer women: including safety measures, right to association and access to judiciary


Concentrating on mitigating unemployment of women between 15 to 24 years of

age and increasing women’s opportunities in income generation occupations in


Supporting and allocating special facilities to commercial organizations, NGOs,

cooperatives, funds and other groups assisting women who have programs supporting

women involved in entrepreneurship of women at urban and rural levels.

Reinforcing commercial networks of women.

Recommendation to Women’s NGOs

Reinforcing service delivery of NGOs as intermediate organizations to provide

financial needs and needs of other micro credit organizations of women especially

in pre- and post-funding sectors and creating financial and innovative investment

including traditional investment systems.

Developing collaboration of NGOs and private sector especially on reinforcing

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) with gender perspective.

Creating data bases and distribution of data regarding entrepreneurship of women

in traditional and non-traditional economic activities and facilitating networking

and information exchange.

Adopting approaches and capacities in accordance with modern technology and

experience in the process of resource mobilization and creating competitive markets.

Special attention to service delivery including technical support, consultancy, train-

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ing and rehabilitation for women to enter economy market.

Legal support and defense of working women, women’s economic agencies, especially

women working in unofficial sectors and also equal access of women to production

resources and focusing on employment right of women in advocacy and

communication activities.

Consulting Government officials to legislate and reinforce laws against sexual and

other kinds of harassment in working environments.


Iranian women consist half of the total population of the country but their participation

rate is only 10 to 12 percent. In other words more than 90 percent of women’s

population is not active economically and they are housewives or inactive students.

Division of works among men and women is losing face due to growing economic

problems but in more traditional areas it still can be seen and the activity rate of

women is one sixth of men and unemployment rate among them is double of men.

Unemployment rate of the country for the moment is more than 10 percent. High

unemployment rate makes men more active for employment to be able to marry and

have families. Many employers prefer not to recruit women because men enjoy

fewer facilities than men, such as maternity leave. On the other hand, women leave

work at the time of marriage and having children or economic crisis, while there is

employment legal support for women and both men and women are allowed to

choose the job they like if it is not against Islamic rules, public interest and rights.

Of course implementation of dangerous, hard and harmful jobs is prohibited for


The other point is that women, with a low activity rate, are working for other members

of their family in public sectors and services such as training and health and

they are less involved in management because they prefer to choose jobs that they

can be also with their families. In 2004, 1.8 of women were managers compared to

6.7 of men and at least one of the way paying wages and salaries. Also in this year,

31 percent of women compared to 23 percent of men were in public sector and

active in corporative.

In general it can be stated that low recognized employment of women decreases

their power of involvement in political, social, and economic participation. Increase

in level of education of women in the recent years, we hope that in the future

women’s role and status will improve qualitatively and quantitatively in social participation

and by presence in power and decision making will improve their status

and become more involved in development of the country.

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Tables and Graphs

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