The Situation of Women Workers in Iran

  • شهریور ۲, ۱۴۰۲
  • دیدگاه غیر فعال شده است
women worker


In Iran, women workers are in more challenging employment conditions compared to male workers. They are the primary victims of social and economic crises. Women workers generally engage in informal and low-income occupations, working long and strenuous hours. Unequal wages, fewer benefits, lack of social insurance, and unsafe working environments are characteristic of women’s workforce in the job market. Women workers are often the first to experience labour adjustments or layoffs.

Employers usually prefer to avoid hiring female workers legally due to factors such as maternity leave utilization, breastfeeding breaks during working hours, and the legal requirement to establish childcare facilities at the workplace. According to official statistics in 2023, the unemployment rate for women has increased by 16% compared to 2022, while the increase in male unemployment rate has been 7.8%. Currently, for every employed woman, there are 10 unemployed women.
In official statistics, women constitute only 5% of the total workforce in the country. However, due to the fact that a significant portion of women workers are engaged in informal jobs or domestic and family occupations and are excluded from labour laws, these statistics cannot be trusted. According to official figures, around 6 million employed individuals are considered to be in informal labour, a substantial portion of which are women. Many of them earn less than 2 million Tomans per month. Many women who are considered part of the underground workforce lack social insurance and retirement benefits.
According to statistics from the Social Security Organization, 80% of employed women workers lack insurance coverage. Due to official gender discrimination in the country’s laws and the high unemployment rate, women are forced into unstable job conditions. Consequently, the majority of occupational vulnerabilities for women workers involve those who work without legal contracts or have unclear terms of employment. Their wages are often lower than legal standards, and they receive irregular payments for their rights, or some employers withhold their wages. These workers labour without unemployment insurance and are frequently introduced to the job market at ages younger than 16 years old.
According to information published by the Statistical Centre of Iran, over 90% of women workers are employed in the private sector. These workers often work in workshops with fewer than 10 employees, which make up more than 90% of all workshops. According to Article 191 of Iran’s labour law, workshops with fewer than 10 employees are exempt from labour law regulations. Women workers employed in these production workshops work long hours and receive meagre wages.

The workforce of service sector contracting companies is mostly comprised of women workers who are engaged in temporary contracts and receive minimal legal wages. These workers generally do not benefit from the advantages of legal contracts and social insurance.
Out of 25.685000 household heads in the country, 3.517000 are women. Women who are heads of households face significant economic difficulties. A female household head with two children receives a minimum wage of 3.800000 Tomans per month. Despite the ongoing increase in the cost of living, many women who are heads of households are struggling to escape absolute poverty. Most of these women workers are employed in the service sector.
Six million rural women workers are directly employed in agriculture and animal husbandry, with only one percent of them being landowners. Their wages constitute 60 percent of male farmers’ wages.According to official statistics, 62 percent of “unpaid family workers” are women. The majority of these unpaid family workers are engaged in agricultural activities, forestry, fishing, industrial production, wholesale, and retail activities. They reside in rural areas. Women labourers who play a direct role in production and contribute economically are not receiving wages for their work.
Women involved in carpet weaving work for six to ten months to complete each carpet. Their spinal columns undergo changes, they suffer from joint and hip pain, and due to working in inappropriate work environments, and they are exposed to various diseases. Most of these women are not insured and generally do not receive wages. Carpet weaving women, workers in workshops with less than ten employees, women engaged in household and family work, and those in informal occupations are all part of the group of women deprived of insurance coverage and retirement benefits.
Moreover, women working in brick production factories suffer from various pains and illnesses in middle age due to long working hours, heavy tasks, and the additional burden of family responsibilities.

One of the serious issues faced by women workers in the workplace is sexual harassment and abuse. Instances of sexual harassment in the workplace are on the rise due to the expansion of poverty, unemployment, and lack of labour rights. Employers, managers, high-ranking employees, or even fellow workers, take advantage of female labour and often create unsafe working environments for women workers by using verbal violence and sexual harassment.

Workplace Safety, Occupational Diseases, and Accidents caused by work:

According to government statistics and forensic medical reports, in recent years, we have witnessed an increase in the number of female workers who have lost their lives or been injured as a result of work-related accidents. In addition to occupational accidents that can lead to fatalities and amputations in women, they are also at risk of encountering other occupational hazards under these challenging conditions. These hazards not only deteriorate their quality of life but also reduce their lifespan.
Regarding work-related accidents, since a significant portion of female workers are employed in informal sectors and workshops that operate outside the scope of labour laws, accurate statistics are practically unavailable.

The compulsory hijab, mandated by the Islamic Republic, is one of the issues that puts the lives of female workers at risk in the workplace. When female workers are required to appear in their appropriate work attire, they must adhere to Islamic dress codes. This forces them to wear the obligatory Islamic hijab without considering workplace safety. In many cases, this inappropriate dress code for their type of work has led to hazardous occupational accidents for female workers. For example, Marzieh Taherian, a 21-year-old worker at the Kavir Semnan Textile Factory in, got entangled in the spinning machine and lost her life due to the constraints of her attire while working on the spinning mechanism.
In the month of May 2023, Marzieh, a worker at a pastry workshop in Babol, lost her life when her headscarf got caught in the mixer. Additionally, a 26-year-old female worker from Neyshabur lost her life while working with a plastic injection machine. Her headscarf got caught and pulled into the machine.According to statistics from the Social Security Organization, in the past year, 42,898 workers covered by labour laws were involved in accidents. Among them, 1,593 were women, and 44,491 were men. Out of this total, 22,587 were single, and 21,904 were married. These occupational injuries led to the death of 751 individuals last year, while 8,544 were injured.
The challenges faced by women workers extend beyond just work-related accidents and the lack of workplace safety. Gender discrimination and inhumane employment conditions for female workers have social repercussions, including an increase in addiction, suicide, and exploitation. According to reports from the ISNA news agency, 70% of women workers suffer from constant depression, stress, and anxiety.
Due to significant legal and security obstacles, the establishment of independent labour unions in Iran faces challenges. Consequently, female workers, constituting half of the country’s workforce, lack their own independent organizations. Because of restrictions imposed on workers and the absence of widespread labour unions, female workers lack suitable tools to fight for their social rights. These rights include equal pay for equal work, equal job opportunities, stable and legal contracts, healthcare insurance, workplace safety, and proper retirement benefits.

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