Educated Women in the Labour Market of Iran: Changing Worlds and New Solutions

  • Narjes Mehdizadeh
  • Gill Scott
Part of the Lifelong Learning Book Series book series (LLLB, volume 15)


Women’s access to education and training , as well as to measures supporting labour market insertion, can be key factors in increasing the role that women play in the socio-economic growth and development of any society. It is a role that is well recognised in Europe where increasing numbers of economists argue that rising rates of female employment represent a major driving force of growth in the past two decades (Finance and economics 2006). Outside the EU, research has also shown that women can be key players in economic development particularly if their economic involvement is combined with increased access to education and training (Murthy et al. 2008). Realising that potential, however, is not easy, particularly in the region that is the focus of this chapter—the Middle East (ME). Labour force statistics show, for example, that women’s employment rates in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are amongst the lowest in the world, despite marked increases in the levels of education achieved by women. In Iran , one of the most powerful countries of the ME , the overall increase in women’s participation in education , particularly since the 1990s, has been outstanding (Bahramitash 2003) but the rise of women’s employment has been much slower and limited. So, whereas a number of studies indicate a close relationship between education /training and employment (Shanahan et al. 2002), in Iran , where there has been a dramatic increase in the number of educated women , this relationship does not fully appear to apply. Higher rates of educational achievement have simply not been matched by a similar rise in participation in the labour market. Statistics indicate, for example, that 58.6% of university entrances in 2006 were women but only 12.4% of women were economically active in the same year, compared to 65.6% of men (Statistics Centre of Iran 2007). This chapter will attempt to explore some of the reasons behind this paradox and why it is a paradox most keenly experienced by graduate mothers .


Labour Market Middle East Iranian Woman Education Education Female Graduate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Afshari, Z. (1996). Zanan va toseeye ensani (Woman and human development). Conference paper. Tehran: Alzahra University.Google Scholar
  2. Alaedini, P., & Razavi, M. R. (2005). Women’s participation and employment in Iran: A critical examination. Critique: Critical Middle Eastern Studies, 14(1), 57–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alafar, E. (2003). Barrasi avamel moasser bar eshteghal zanan fareghotahsil daneshgahi (A study of effective factors on employment of graduated women). Tehran: Ministry of Labour and Social Affair.Google Scholar
  4. Babran, S. (2005). Zanan dar amoozesh ali keshvar, hozoor Kammi ya kaifi? (Women in higher education of Iran, quantity or quality presence?). Payam Zan, 13(12), 208–219.Google Scholar
  5. Bahramitash, R. (2003). Islamic fundamentalism and women’s economic role: The case of Iran. International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society, 16(4), 551–568.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bahramitash, R., & Kazemipour, S. (2006). Myths and realities of the impact of Islam on women: Changing marital status in Iran. Critique: Critical Middle Eastern Studies, 15(2), 111–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bahramitash, R., & Salehi Esfahani, H. (2009). Nimble fingers no longer! Women’s employment in Iran. In A. Gheissari (Ed.), Contemporary Iran: Economy, society, policies (pp. 77–122). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ballard, J. (2002, January 7). Another kind of freedom. Guardian. Accessed 21 June 2007.
  9. Bouzari, S. (2002). Jaygah zanan dar faleyathay pejouheshi keshvar (Women status in research activities in Iran). Tehran: Institute of Research and Planning of Higher Education.Google Scholar
  10. Centre of Research and Women’s Studies. (2003). Abaad jenseyati bazar kar va vijegihay eshteghal dar Iran (Gender dimensions of labour market and employment characteristics in Iran). Tehran: Tehran University.Google Scholar
  11. Farasatkhah, M. (2000). Barrasi marahel tahavvol daneshgah dar Iran (A study on developmental stages of university in Iran) (2nd ed.). Tehran: Institute of Research and Planning of Higher Education.Google Scholar
  12. Farasatkhah, M., & Mokhtari, M. (2001). Barrasi va arzyabi amalkard Shoray Ali Enghelab Farhangi (A study and evaluation of the function Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution) (3rd ed.). Tehran: Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution Office.Google Scholar
  13. Farjadi, G. (2003). Barnamerizi nirooy ensani: barrasi doreh doktora amouzesh ali (Planning for human force: A study on PhD education). Tehran: Shahid Beheshti University and Institute of Research and Planning of Higher Education.Google Scholar
  14. Finance and economics: A guide to womenomics; women and the world economy. (2006, April 15). Economist, 379(8473), 80.Google Scholar
  15. Fourth Economic, Social and Cultural Development Plan of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 2005–2009. (2004). Management and Planning Organization Law. Tehran.Google Scholar
  16. ILO (International Labour Organization). (2005). An employment strategy for the Islamic Republic of Iran. New Delhi: Sub-Regional Office for South Asia, ILO.Google Scholar
  17. Iran Technical and Vocational Training Organizations Report. (2008). Accessed 19 Apr 2009.
  18. Kabeer, N. (1994). Reversed realities: Gender hierarchies in development thought. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  19. Lister, R. (2003). Citizenship: Feminist perspectives. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  20. Management and Planning Organization. (1999). Qozareshe melie toseyeh ensani gomhori eslami Iran (National Report of Human Development of Islamic Republic of Iran), Tehran.Google Scholar
  21. Management and Planning Organization. (2001). Ghanone barnemeh sevome eghtesadi, ejtemai and farhangi (Third Economic, Social and Cultural Development Plan), Tehran.Google Scholar
  22. Mehdizadeh, N. (2009). Women, children and state: Analysis of childcare policies related to women’s employment in Iran. Unpublished PhD thesis, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow.Google Scholar
  23. Mehdizadeh, N., & Scott, G. (2008). Educated mothers in Iran: Work, welfare and childcare. 42nd Social Policy Association Annual Conference, 23–35 June 2008, University of Edinburgh, Scotland.Google Scholar
  24. Mehran, G. (1999). Lifelong learning: New opportunities for women in a Muslim country (Iran). Comparative Education, 35(2), 201–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ministry of Education. (2007). Enghelab va amoozesh va parvaresh, moroori bar barkhi az mohemtarin dastavardhay amoozesh va parvaresh (Revolution and education, review on some important education achievements). Parto Enghelab Eslami. Accessed 21 May 2007.
  26. Murthy, R., Sagayam, K., Rengalakshmi, J., & Sudha, N. (2008). Gender, efficiency, poverty reduction, and empowerment: Reflections from an agriculture and credit programme in Tamil. Gender & Development, 16(1), 134–156. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Rogers, B. (1980). The domestication of women: Discrimination in developing societies. London: Kogan Page.Google Scholar
  28. Salehi, E. (2002). Barrasi vazeyat eshteghal danesh amookhtegan zan: Mored barrasi: Daneshgah Mazanderan (An investigation on the situation of graduated women: Case study, Mazanderan University). Working paper, University of Mazanderan, Iran.Google Scholar
  29. Salehi-Esfahani, D., & Kamel, H. (2006). Demographic swings and early childhood education in Iran. Working paper, Department of Economics, Virgin Tech.Google Scholar
  30. Salehi-Isfahani, D. (2005). Human resources in Iran: Potentials and challenges. Iranian Studies, 38(1), 117–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Schomburg, H., & Teichler, U. (2006). Higher education and graduate employment in Europe: Results from graduate surveys from twelve countries. London: Springer.Google Scholar
  32. Sen, A. (1999). Development as a freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Shaditalab, J. (2005). Iranian women: Rising expectations. Critique: Critical Middle Eastern Studies, 14(1), 35–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Shanahan, M. J., Mortimer, J. T., & Hannes, K. (2002). Adolescence and adult work in the twenty-first century. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 12(1), 99–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Shavarini, M. K. (2005). The feminisation of Iranian higher education. International Review of Education, 5(14), 329–347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Statistics Centre of Iran (SCI). (2002). Salnameh amari keshvar (Annual statistics of Iran). Tehran, Iran.Google Scholar
  37. Statistics Centre of Iran (SCI). (2007). Salnameh amari keshvar (Annual statistics of Iran). Tehran, Iran.Google Scholar
  38. Statistics Centre of Iran (SCI). (2008). Salnameh amari keshvar (Annual statistics of Iran). Tehran, Iran.Google Scholar
  39. Taleb, M., & Goodarzi, M. (2004). Ethnincity and gender: A study of ethnic groups in Sistan and Baluchestan. A Quarterly Journal of the Centre for Women’s Studies, 2(1), 2–48.Google Scholar
  40. Technical and Statistical Analyzing Office. (2002). Barrasi vazeyat paziresh dar konkoor sarasari salhay 1374 ta 1381 be tafkik jens (A study on university admission in national exam during 1995–2002 by gender). Tehran: Evaluation of Education Organization.Google Scholar
  41. Technical and Statistical Analyzing Office. (2008). Barrasi vazeyat paziresh dar konkoor sarasari salhay 1386–1387 be tafkik jens (A study on university admission in national exam during 2007–2008 by gender). Tehran: Evaluation of Education Organization.Google Scholar
  42. Webster, J. (2007). Changing European gender relations: Gender equality policy concerning employment and the labour market. Brussels: European Commission.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Law & Social SciencesGlasgow Caledonian UniversityGlasgowUK

Personalised recommendations