Women's Employment Situation in Iran
Hamshahri, Daily Newspaper
Vol. 8, No. 2383, Apr. 22nd, 2001
By: Vajiheh Zadeh
Word Count: 881
Except a very few cases the job market is open to the female race. More than 30 percent of the public sector employees are women mostly performing in the medical and educational fields. According to available statistics, from a total of 1.97 million people employed in the public sector in 1993, more than 630,000 were composed of women. The largest percentage of government employed women are in the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health and Medical Education.
Nowadays, men and women can work side by side in almost al fields of business and society. Based on a 1991 census, women represent more than 48 percent of Iran's total population. In a 15 year period between 1976 until 1991 Iran's female population rose from 14 to 27 million. These women have had a tendency to enter the medical and education fields more than other businesses. The number of women teachers has steadily grown since 1976.
In 1976 the percentage of women in the scientific, technical and specialist fields was only 13 percent. The ratio grew to 32.8 percent by 1986 and 39.7 percent by 1991.
In 1991 more than 650,000 women were employed in the services sector.
On the other hand, the level of women's employment in the agricultural, livestock, forestry, and fishing industries has continually decreased during the above mentioned 15 year period from a high of 26.6 percent to just 13 percent. The reason is obviously that not many women are inclined to work in farms and rural areas anymore.
According to available statistics, from a total of 1.97 million people employed in the public sector in 1993, more than 630,000 were composed of women. The largest percentage of government employed women are in the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health and Medical Education. The smallest figure is for the industrial and technical areas such as the Ministries of Energy, Industries and Mines, etc.
18 percent of all university faculty members (5539 from the total of 30262) are women.EXTENT OF WOMEN'S EMPLOYMENT AND A LEGAL REVIEW
Both economic and social necessities have opened many doors to women during the last few years. Moreover, there are no legal hurdles for women in this regards either. Article 28 of the Iranian Constitution clearly states: "Everyone is entitled to choose and select his or her desired employment, as long as it is not against Islamic principles, public interest and does not interfere with the rights of others. The government is duty bound to create jobs for all able bodied individuals equitably and according to the needs of the society."
In the labor legislation, there are no restrictions imposed on women as far as signing employment contracts. Based on article 9 of the above said law, the criterion is qualification and performance and not race, sex, etc. The only restriction and condition in the labor law, which is indeed in support and favor of women is that hard, laborious and dangerous jobs have been forbidden for women.JOB RESTRICTIONS AND PROHIBITIONS FOR WOMEN
There are currently one prohibition and one restriction as far as women holding down jobs. The former because of Islamic Sharia (canon Law) and national security and the latter is related to married women and jobs that may be against family values:
A) Women are forbidden from becoming judges by long standing edicts by Islamic jurisprudents and Islamic sharia. However, they are allowed to climb the promotion chain and advance in the judiciary on an equal basis with men by becoming legal advisers in various civil and administrative courts, a prosecutor, a defense attorney, etc. The limitation only extends to being a presiding judge and issuing a ruling.
B) Restrictions for married women on holding jobs contrary to family values. According to article 1117 of the civil code of justice, the husband is entitled to prevent his spouse from holding certain jobs. The article states that the husband can prohibit his wife from employment which harms the reputation of the family or is against family values.
Even though this constitutes a limitation, however it does not entail total control of a woman by their husbands as far as employment or making decisions is concerned. It only signifies the importance of family values in our Islamic culture. For instance, if a woman working in a government agency and her husband says she should not work there anymore, is the organization compelled to honor the husband's wish or is a court ruling a prerequisite?
In the past, conformant to the related civil codes and regulations, the husband's request should be obeyed and if the wife believes that her husband has overstepped his authority, she must prove her case in a court of law. The husband does not need to justify his position. The burden of proof lies with the wife to verify her claim and complaint.
However, the legislation has been modified during the last few decades whereby the husband must appear as a plaintiff in court and prove his claim that the job held by his wife is against family values, morals, Islam, etc. and in the event the court agrees with the husband's assertions, thereupon the woman is obliged to quit her job.
Overall though, as a general principle and based on Iranian law, women are largely (relatively) on equal footing with their male counterparts on various business, economic and social activities in Iran.