Highly-Educated Iranian Women Kept Out of Job Market

Women are well represented in Iran’s colleges and universities, but the picture is quite different when it comes to the job market. According to recent studies, of Iranian women who are unemployed nearly half hold higher education degrees. In comparison, only 14% of unemployed Iranian men are college educated.

Unemployment in Iran is getting a closer look both from the country’s government and by agencies outside of it. According to the Statistics Center of Iran, over 2.6 million residents of the country are out work at the moment, with 76% of those falling between the ages of 15 and 29. Although unemployment figures tend to be higher in the summer, this fall the percentage of Iranians without a job was still in excess of 11%.

Some 1 million new jobs have been created in the first half of the current Iranian calendar year, which began on March 20, 2012. During the previous year, the nation’s working population was 25 million, the report added. According to Etemad Persian language daily, the administration had pledged to create 2.5 million jobs in the current (calendar) year. Persons aged 20-24 years are the most unemployed group in Iran with the unemployment rate of 29.8 percent. Just 10 percent of economic activities in Iran are done by women, the Mehr News Agency quoted Tehran chamber of commerce official Mohsen Bahrami Arz-Aqdas as saying.

The discrepancy in employment between the genders has now drawn the attention of Austria’s Southwind Society for Developmental Politics, who are calling on the United Nations to weigh in on the systematic gender discrimination in the country. According to a report compiled by Southwind and other women’s rights activist groups, the condition of women in Iran is at its lowest point since the 1979 revolution. Although women represent 60% of the country’s university applicants, the laws and cultural barriers in place prevent them from taking advantage of their education in the job market.

In recent years, the pace of discrimination quickened with establishment of female-only colleges and universities and exclusion of women from some majors deemed to be unfeminine such as sciences, mathematics and English language.

In some universities, the group said, the segregation ratios were as follows read as follows: Maths and technical 20 per cent, human sciences 30 per cent, arts 34 per cent, foreign languages 25 per cent.  Segregation also reached to university transport systems and queues at the canteens, and some students had been expelled for ‘improper behaviour’ which included talking to male colleagues.  Females are also advised to wear loose clothes of dark colours and avoid make up. The university intelligence also informs parents of any ‘improper behaviour’ in the university dormitories, and as a result female students are regularly harassed and intimidated.