Domestic Economy

Women’s Potential Overlooked

Women’s Potential OverlookedWomen’s Potential Overlooked

The labor market in Iran remains widely divided along gender lines. While women make up almost half of Iran’s working-age population, their contribution to economic activities is far below the potential.  

The latest labor force survey conducted by the Statistical Center of Iran (SCI) for the three-month period ending on December 21, 2014 indicates that women comprise only about 12% of economically active population aged 10 and over against 63% men.

The report also shows that unemployment rate for the population aged 10 and above is 20.3% among women compared with 8.7% among men. Iran was ranked as the 137th country in the ranking of 142 countries by the World Economic Forum in Gender Gap Index 2014.

There are more than 2.7 million female-headed households in Iran. A study by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in 2011 indicated that the average income of female-headed households in Iran is approximately 65% of the male-headed households, while employment is significantly lower.

  High Education Level

What is significant in the data provided by both domestic and international sources is the higher ratio of women to men in post-secondary education. Official statistics indicate that more than 60% of university students in Iran are women.

This highlights the vast investment in women’s education and the huge potential in integrating women into the economy.

  Participation in Various Sectors

According to SCI data, 51.6% of Iranian women are employed in the services sector, while the industrial and agricultural sectors account for about 25% and 23.4% of women’s employment respectively.

Women entrepreneurial studies in Iran are very limited. According to the 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report, the rate of entrepreneurship in Iran among women between the ages 18 to 64 fluctuated from 4 to 6 percent between 2008 and 2012. As for Iranian men, the same indicator fluctuated between 14 to 20 percent during this period.  

  Economic Empowerment

What is evident is that to achieve positive economic growth the countries worldwide don’t have many options but to enhance integration of women into the labor-force.

The Economist points out that the increase in employment of women in developed countries, during the past decade, has added more to global growth than has the economic emergence of China. In the United States alone, women own nearly 8 million businesses, accounting for $1.2 trillion of GDP.

In noting the potential GDP gains to be made with women’s economic progress, one must also consider that rising incomes mean increased spending, which helps fuel additional growth.

In addition to boosting economic growth, supporting a stronger role for women produces a multiplier effect as women reinvest a large portion of their income in their families and communities. Women also play key roles in creating peaceful and stable societies, which are important factors for economic growth.

Even though a number of governmental and nongovernmental organizations have addressed the issue of women’s entrepreneurship and participation in the economy, the actual results have been disappointing and much needs to be done to resolve the underlying causes and encourage more participation on the part of women.