Role of Education in Generating Employment Opportunities for Women in Esfahan (Iran)
The economic participation of a 9 percent of active women (according to enumeration of 1996); by itself, reflects the lack of women' s economic and social participation in comparison with men in developing society of Iran; and while the women' s economic expansion, that is, suitable using of human power, along with development goals in industrial developed countries is a symbol of development, it seems that women' s occupation out of house in Iran is confronted with some misinterpretations, critiques, misjudgments and misgivings. In addition to effects of some factors like economic depressions, unemployment, unequal job opportunities for men and women in labor market of Iran that has a immediate effect on the level of women' s economic participation, we can add some other cultural and social factors like some certain interpretations of women' s occupational role and negative attitudes toward women' s activities that block the research processes and development of women' s participation in economic activities. In this article, the author, based on some theoretical deliberations and findings of empirical researches, tries to study these blocks.Introduction:
The studies on the skill, development and education and an evaluation of men and women' s activities by test, in Brazil, show that male employees' goals are to achieve higher occupational hierarchy and advancing from one situation to a better one. But women, steadily, remain in the low levels of occupational hierarchy. Because man, as opposed to women, gain experience and learn. By skill, education and development, men have a great future ahead of them.
The researches in this field show that the prime roles of women, in all societies, are playing as a mother and wife. Paying most attention to this point, thus, other issues like their employments are considered as the less important issue. For girls, the possibility of finding job is affected by different factors like their socialization. At the prime of their life, they find that they are not on equal terms with boys in taking the opportunities and social advantages.
The physical differences between men and women and the different roles that is applied in socialization methods of two genders, have prepared the ground to occurring a kind of work distribution according to the gender. How much this kind of work distribution is rational? What are its cultural grounds and social consequences? Does this kind of distribution lead one of the genders to deprivation?
The data gathered about our country in 1991 show that malnutrition in girls is nearly twice as much as boys whether in urban or rural societies (for easily comparing, we have organized the data in a table).
malnutrition rural urban
girls 5/13 % 11 %
boys 7 % 6 %
In the poor provinces, the level of malnutrition is generally high. Thus, bringing up a sound and safe mothers who can motivate their children to develop is unlikely.
Another social factor that is very important is education. The first school that was special for girls was built around 86 years ago and the data gathered in 1922 show that the number of girls and boys who registered at schools had been 7239 and 35000 respectively. This numbers clearly show the girls retardation that year. In 1965, the percentage of educated men and women had been 22 and 7/3 respectively. In 1991, this number for men and women reached to 81 and 67 respectively. Although, the level of women education has had a significant increase, daringly, we can say that its increase in recent 10 years is not comparable with 63 years ago. But the number of educated women has been always less than educated men. In 1956, 1 percent of rural population had been educated that reached to 54% in 1991. It is a development but we must remember that 64 % of rural women are still uneducated. But the number of educated men has been always more than women. In 1991, just 50 % of rural women have been educated.
Nowadays, around 15 % of rural girls do not go to school when they are 6 to 9 year old. Although, this number, in comparison with previous years, is very small, but warns us about another generation of uneducated mothers. Women need have an education higher than a primary level to have an active social participation in society.
Women Education 1976 ? 1977 1991 ? 1992
Primary 38 % 47 %
Secondary school 36 % 42 %
High school 40 % 44 %
Technical & Professional 20 % 7/19 %
Many girls, unlike boys, still do not register at school (15% of rural and 7% of urban girls). Only 9% of all the girls who have registered at high school and 23% of the girls who have registered at secondary school are rural. In 1976 and 1992, respectively, just 30% and 28% of all the university students were girls. So, it can be said that, nearly, no change has been taken place in the number of girls. That gathered data show that the number students in agricultural and veterinary fields at ingenious level is less than one percent and at BA is around 5/5% and at MA and PhD is 4%.
The number of girls graduated from technical school and university in the technical and industrial fields that are essential for industrial society, are about 23% and 3/7% respectively. In the second development program, the Plan Organization had suggested that some especial policy should be adopted in order to decrease rural women deprivation.
Another social factor is marriage. The statistic show that in 1991, 2/2% of 10 to 14 year old has married. After 1976 and notably in recent years the number of girls who marry in their 10 to 14 year old has had a significant increase. Before these girls can finish their education, must take the role of a mother. An issue that is worth noting is that from 25 marriages that take place in these ages, one has been led to divorce. According to statistic, around 50% of girls get marry before 19. Certainly, these women by marrying at an early age not only increase the vulnerability of family but also can not be mothers who can motivate their children to develop
The study of various educational indicators, including access to early childhood care and education, participation in primary, secondary, and higher education, and adult literacy rates, points to considerable progress made towards gender equality in Iran over the last decade. The most significant progress has been made at the primary education level, where the gender parity index (GPI: ratio between girls' and boys' rates) in the gross enrollment ratio went from 0.90 in 1990-1991 to 0.96 in 1999-2000, and the secondary education level, where the GPI went from 0.73 to 0.92 during the same period (UNESCO, 2002: 242-243, 250-251)
Iran is a young nation with a population of nearly 70 million, among whom 40 percent are below age 15, and 56 percent between ages 15 to 64. According to the Plan and Budget Organization (PBO) of the Islamic Republic, Iran is a developing country with an upward trend in the human development index (HDI) value from 0.642 in 1988 to 0.758 in 1997 and thus considered among nations with medium human development (PBO, 1999: 15). The key factors leading to human development gains in Iran during the 1988 to 1997 period have been increased life expectancy (from 61.6 to 69.5 years); higher rates of adult literacy (from 57.1 to 74.5 percent); and better combined first, second, and third level gross enrollment ratios from 65.6 to 75 percent. In 1997, life expectancy at birth was 70.6 years for women and 68.4 years for men. In the same year, the female adult literacy rate was 67 percent compared to 81.9 percent male literacy. Furthermore, the combined first, second, and third level gross enrollment ratio was 73.3 percent for women and 76.7 percent for men. Iran graduated from low to medium standing on the gender-related human development index (GDI) value from 0.454 in 1988 to 0.579 in 1997 (PBO, 1999: 146).
According to UNESCO statistics, adult literacy rates in Iran (age 15 and over) have increased from 63.2 percent (72.2 male and 54 female) in 1990 to 76 percent (83 male and 68.9 female) in 2000, pointing to significant progress in female literacy over the last decade. One witnesses further gender equality when literacy rates for Iranian youth are taken into consideration. The youth literacy rates (age 15 to 24) have increased from 86.3 percent (91.7 male and 80.8 female) to 93.8 percent (96.2 male and 91.3 female) during the 1990-2000 period (UNESCO, 2002: 218)).
Looking at gross enrollment ratio in early childhood care and education for children age 3 and above, one witnesses a shift from a GPI of 0.95 in 1990-1991, showing a disparity in favor of boys, to a GPI of 1.06 in 1999-2000, indicating a disparity in favor of girls. The same trend is expected at the higher education level. According to the Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology, there was an increase in the percentage of women enrolled in public universities from 27.3 percent in 1990 to 44.1 percent in 1999 (Ghiasi, 2000: 16)
The ideal female citizen in the Islamic Republic of Iran?the New Muslim Woman?is the product of the coexistence of tradition and modernity. She is thus faced with a paradox (Mehran, 2003)).
An analysis of the trend in education from 1990 to 2000 points to increased gender equality at the primary and secondary school level. The trend in access to primary education in terms of gross intake rate (GIR) shows a gender parity index of 0.98 in 1990-19991 and 1 in 1999-2000, indicating parity between sexes in that year. The net intake rate (NIR) in primary education in 1999-2000 was a total of 38.4, with a male rate of 38.7 and female rate of 38, pointing to a GPI of 0.98 (UNESCO, 2002: 234-235)
Yet another indicator of the internal efficiency of the education system is the percentage of repeaters. The repetition rate in primary education in Iran is lower for girls in Grades 1 through 5. In 1999-2000, the male repetition rate in Grade 1 was 10.2 compared to 7.9 female; 7.6 male and 4.7 female in Grade 2; 5.4 male and 2.9 female in Grade 3; 6.1 male and 3.1 female in Grade 4; and 4.1 male and 2 female in Grade 5 (UNESCO, 2002: 266-267
"We are not the guardians of women to give them something by force or take it away from them. We are only preparing the ground for women to recognize their rights and capabilities, and acknowledge their own merits. Once they have done that, they will reach their rightful position in society. And the first prerequisite is to increase women's knowledge and education" (La'li, 1999: 239)
The dual role and responsibility of the post-revolutionary woman is clearly reflected in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The latter "considers women's employment and their social and economic activities to be very meaningful and conducive to social well-being" while, at the same time, emphasizing the role of the woman "as a mother and her significance in maintaining strong family bonds and affectionate relationships" (Women's Bureau, 1997a: 58).
Method of Choosing Sample Population
At first 4 urban areas of Isfahan city were chosen through cluster sampling (areas of 1, 3, 6, and 7). The following are the reasons for choosing these areas:
1. Above-mentioned areas have approximately the same equal status from the standpoint of household density.
2. They are located in different parts of the city from the standpoint of geographical divisions. Area 1 and 3 are located in the city center, and area 6 is chosen from the northern part of the city and area 7 from the southern part.
Then, the total population of these areas were divided based on sample volume (450 questionnaires), and each 220 households was asked to fill in the same of questionnaires. At the end, 450 women, 63 employed women, and 387 unemployed women filled in the questionnaires.
The distance of one household to the next one= sample number: total of 4 chosen areas
Method of collecting data
For collecting date, questionnaire was used.
Preparation Stages of Questionnaire
Preparation of questionnaires was done by taking research objectives into consideration, and they are comprised of a number of open questions, and some tables.
- Identification Questions: these questions are posed to identify the individuals under study.
- Objective Questions: they are related to the objectives of this research.
- Complementary Questions: in addition to collected information under investigation, other complementary information is required for the issues under research.
Statistical Tools Used in the Research
The statistical tools like one, two, and tree dimensional tables of frequency distribution - Ca square (X) correlation coefficiency (pt) and percentage and some other demographical formulas like mean, middle, general activity rate, employment rate, responsibilities, and so on are used. Moreover, for deriving conclusions out of the questionnaire, matrix table is used.
1. there is a high correlation between women' s occupation and their quantity of income.
2. there is a high correlation between women' s occupation and the time of their marrying.
3. there is a high correlation between women' s occupation and the level of their participation in social-cultural affairs.
4. there is a high correlation between women' s education and their occupation.
The official statistics, spread abroad by Statistics Center of Iran, show that according to ups and downs of recent enumeration, the level of Iranian women' s economic participation is much less than this level in developed and even in some developing countries.
Table 3- The Ratio of Economically Active and Inactive Women in Nationwide Enumeration (1956- 1996)
%The percentage of economically active population The percentage of economically in active population
total employed unemployed total learning house
keeper gaining income without having work other
1956 6242 2/9 2/9 0 8/90 0/3 5/79 0 8/3
1966 8206 6/12 5/11 1/1 4/78 4/7 3/73 0 6/6
1976 11206 9/12 8/10 1/2 1/87 8/14 8/68 1/2 3/1
1986 16033 2/8 1/6 1/2 1/91 6/16 7/68 8/0 0/5
1996 22379 1/9 9/7 2/1 9/89 6/26 4/58 6/1 3/3
The Statistics Center of Iran- The Statistical Yearbook of Iran (1956-1996)
Table 4- The Percentage of Employed Women in Iran in Comparison with Other Countries
Developing Countries Developed Countries
Country Year Percentage Country Year Percentage
U. S 1987
ILO, yearbook of labor statistics 1988, (Geneva: ILO), p 169
When Iranian women remove this obstacle, that is, the absence of enough education in order to achieve better jobs and occupational situations, they strike other social and cultural snags like employers' tendency to employ men rather than women and generic discrimination, etc.
The level of women participation in economic and productive activities has been decreased since fifteen years ago. In years between 1976- 1991, in spite of increasing the number of active women from 1449 to 1630, the level of women' s participation in economical activities has been fallen from 12/9 to 8/7 that is because of the structural blocks in labor market. This decrease is inconsistent with the high investment that is invested in educating 6 and more year old women that increased their level of knowledge from 35/5 percent to 67/1. The number of women, educating in higher education, has increased from 75000 to 258000 and the number of women educating in secondary school has increased from 306000 to 1703000.
These findings show that, at least for women, the conditions necessary to use this investment in human resources is not ideal and we can not expect that increasing sum of money invested in, can lead to increasing women' s participation in economic activities. Another issue on constant development that we must pay attention to, is the people' s cultural attitude toward women' s occupation. The mass media, unfortunately, especially movies and textbooks, do not set a suitable cultural pattern about women' s occupation. Rectification of cultural attitude of society to women' s occupation in producing or doing social services can improve the position of women in their participation.
After the Islamic revolution, the officials have paid must attention to women' s education, especially higher education. The statistics show that 60% of those who passed the Entrance Examination of universities in 1380 were women that indicated their social and mental development. Regarding the increasing number of women who pass the Entrance Examination of universities, it is inevitable that we must make a good plan to enjoy their enormous capacity.
It seems that, regarding the increasing number of women who pass the Entrance Examination of universities in recent years, on one part, it gives to the society a window of opportunity to discover and use these faculties and on the other part, it may lead us to another imminent job crisis if we don not appropriately prepare the situations. Ignoring the occupations and economic activities of women is to keep half of economically active population away from economic activities and without paying attention to this issue, it is not possible to achieve economic growth and development.
This issue needs a lot of studies and researches because of its importance that can be used by economists, programmers and development managers. Without an essential research, we can not achieve a appropriate programming.
Table 5- The Rate of Women' s Participation in the World in 1988
Description Number Rate of Participation
South African Countries
Developed Countries ???
World 130 2/34
Low Human Development
Low Human Development Except for India
Median Human Development
Median Human Development Except for China
High Human Development 44
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Libya, Algeria, Honduras
Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Dominican, Ecuador
Bolivia, Ireland, Somalia, Mexico, Argentina
Britain, Belgium, Turkey, Korea, Japan
Finland, Niger, Sweden, Jamaica 10
36 10 and less
More than 40
ILO, yearbook of labor statistics 1988, (Geneva: ILO), p 172
Study of Women Education According to the Enumeration in 1976 and 1986
According to the enumeration in 1986, the proportion of men to women is 105%. Regarding the equal number of men and women, it is expected that both men and women enjoy the same social services and have the same opportunities for economical participation. But the statistics show that men activity is much more than women economical activity. This difference, regarding the kind of their job, is clearly shown in their employment statistics. For example, among 1054000 people who have scientific and specialized jobs, just 243000 of them are women while the number of men reaches to 719000.Also, at the high ranking official and administrative level, while the number of women is 2000, the number of men at these levels is 43000. With a brief glance at conditions of women education, you can clearly understand this issue.
Table 6- The number and proportion of the educated people who are 6 and more year old between 1976 and 1986
Men & Women Woman Men & Women Woman
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
The Statistics Center of Iran- The Statistical Yearbook of Iran (1956-1996)
Although, in years between 1976 and 1986, the number of educated women increased and from 35/5% educated women in 1976 reached to 52/1% in 1986, but on the one hand, the level of educated men is still in a lower position and on the other hand, in 1986, the number of the rustic women who were educated was at the lowest level (36%). Despite of an increase in the level of education in the mentioned period, the number of educated women in urban areas has been more than rural areas in 1976 that was because of the emigration of villagers to the cities and not because of the lack of equipment for education in villages.
On the other part, the increase in the number of educated people has been more in those less than 15 year old ones and the rate of education in adulthood has had a little increase. Considering the effect of higher education for women on decreasing the births, we must prepare the situations for them to continue their learning and be efficient in country' s economic expansion.
The Relation between Level of Education and Occupation
Women education and their tendency to work is directly related and based on the educational properties and professional training that men and women receive. Although, duplicity in terms of economical activities can determine the relationship between women' s education and their economic participation, but we must be careful and do a lot of subtle study to be sure of it. Moreover, by preparing educational properties and professional training, we can expect women participation in economical activities will increase and a positive relation between education level and women participation will be established.
The more we prepare the education and professional training for women, the more easily they can get jobs with better salary and fringe benefits. Women education, however, have some indirect but positive effects on their economic affairs and employment. It also, increases our expectations and decreases the influences of old customs. It also, prevents women from having many children and encourages them to marry late and postpone their pregnancy. All these transformations facilitate women entrance to labor market. The main issue is that the girls are encouraged to get a job after graduating. The researches in developed countries show that if girls do not enter to labor market after graduating, it is very hard to encourage them to enter to the labor market later.
The Relationship between Education and Employment
The women' s tendency to educate and work out of house id directly based on the educational properties and professional training that they receive. Although, duplicity in terms of economic activity, determines the correlation between women education and their economic participation, but we must be careful and do a lot of subtle study to be sure of it. Moreover, by preparing educational properties and professional training, we can expect women participation in economical activities will increase and a positive correlation between education level and women participation will be established.
The occupation of educated women, often, is not congruent with the reputation and the income that they deserve and the education that they completed. In more cases, the women are forced to get jobs that are simpler than the jobs that men with the same level of education can get. Disregarding the reason, women are startled when they face such situations and sometimes it makes them to leave the labor market and stay at home.
Table 7- The Relationship between Women Employment and Their Level of Education
The Level of Education
Elementary Secondary school
High School More than high school
Higher than BA
Total 21 90 81 159 22 66 11 450
0 0 0 09/38 04/19 57/28 28/14 100
Unemployed 42/5 25/32 93/20 88/34 58/2 40/12 51/0 100
df = 6 X2 = 327/3
The estimated X2 is equal to 327/3 that is definitely more than the X2 of the table with Pt equal to 6, so we can conclude that there is meaningful relationship between the level of education and employment. Also, the Pt proves this claim.
Figure 1- A Bar Graph Representing the Relation between the Level of the Education of Women and their Employment
Figure 2- A Bar Graph Representing Employed Women in Terms of the Kind of Block in Their Occupational Advancement
Table 8- The Relationship between Women Employment and Social-Cultural Participation
Employment Participates Do not participates Total
( 28/12) 24
( 72/48) 63
Total 102 348 450
Employed 90/61 09/38 100
Unemployed 27/16 72/83 100
We must estimate the X2 to analyze and explain the table. After comparing the estimated X2 with X2 of the table, we can surely conclude that there is a meaningful relationship between women employment and their social-cultural participation.
First, women mention many factors as the blocks to progress in their employment that contrary to public opinion is not richness or lack of interest or little education but the main reason is the children existence in family because women are forced to sacrifice and stay at home and take care of their children. Second, for some women, not a single factor, but a combination of some factors prevents them from working out of house. We hope that by adopting suitable strategies, women can progress and develop their opportunities to have economic activity.
In order to establish equality of opportunities between men and women, they must give equal salary and fringe benefits. The above social phenomena have a close relationship with each other. We must study them to change women circumstances in labor market. But it will not be an easy work because regarding the predominant social and cultural values most people think that men are superior to women in political, social and economic issues.
One of the most important motivations that make women to work out of house is making money to support their family and if the men' s in come was enough to support their family, women have not a strong tendency to work.
Also, there is an immediate relationship between women education and their employment, their age of marriage and their social and cultural participation.
The research findings suggest the fallowing tips:
1 The Ministry of Labor in collaboration with other ministries should impose a ban on any sexual discrimination and give women an equal opportunity to get jobs congruent with their education.
2 The ministries and Social Security Organization should decrease the time that women work, so that women deal with other works related to their family.
3 The employed women with higher education, the employed women with more experience and married women believe that discrimination, education factors and economic issues are very influential in occurring occupational problems and the administrators must pay attention to these issues.
4 The governments must pay more attention to the women activities in their home and provide them social insurance and encourage them to have a job of their own and see their homework as a job.
5 The women must determine the kind and direction of development programs by accessing to better health, gaining more income, learning new skills and technologies, and having equal rights with men and having control over their own body.
6 Establishment of consulting centers for women and training them in dealing with their social and familial problems.
- Ghiasi, Minoo. 2000. Barresi-ye Ravand-e Vaz'iyat-e Amuzeshi-ye Zanan dar Amuzesh-e 'Ali-ye Iran (Bakhsh-e Dowlati) az Sal-e 1369 ta Sal-e 1378 [A Study of the Trend in the Educational Status of Women in Higher education in Iran (Public Sector) from 1990 to 1999]. Tehran: Institute for Research and Planning in Higher Education.
- ILO, yearbook of labor statistics 1988, (Geneva: ILO), p 172
- La'li, Mas'ud. 1999. Khatami Az Cheh Miguyad? [What is Khatami Talking About?] Tehran: Ekhlas Publications.
- Mehran, Golnar. 2003. "The Paradox of Tradition and Modernity in Female Education in The Islamic Republic of Iran." Comparative Education Review (forthcoming).
Mohammad Reza Iravani