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Citation Information

Type Working Paper - Issue of 5 Working Papers by Ministry of Science, Research & Technology, Population Studies and Research Center for Asia and the Pacific
Title Women's education and labor force participation and fertility decline in Iran
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2002
Page numbers 0-0
URL http://faculty.uncfsu.edu/aaghajanian/papers/femalelaborforce participationfertility.pdf
Education and economic activity are two of the main determinants of women's status. They are also commonly considered as two of the main determinants of fertility decline and demographic transition. Iran has experienced a remarkably rapid fertility decline over the past decade. The decline has surprised many observers both because of its size and tempo and the fact that it started almost immediately after a remarkable rise in fertility during the first decade after the Revolution. The average annual population growth rate, which was 3.4 in 1986 had declined to 1.9 by 1996. Similarly, the total fertility rate,which was estimated to be above 6 in mid 1980s is believed to be just above 2.

Identification of factors that might have contributed to this remarkably rapid decline is of much interest. This paper presents a review of available data on the role played by women's education and labor force participation in this process. Sources of information used include national censuses carried out between 1976-1996, nation-wide KAP surveys conducted by the Ministry of Health and Medical Education since 1988, the large scale population growth estimation survey conducted by the SCI in 1998-1999, and the recently completed DHS survey undertaken by the Ministry of Health and Medical Education.

Results indicate remarkable improvement in the level of education of women and a clearly negative correlation between women's education and fertility. Women's labour force participation rate had declined noticeably after the Revolution. It has risen slightly over the last decade but still remains at below its 1976 level. Nevertheless, there is clear evidence of a negative correlation between women's economic activity rate and their fertility behaviors. On the aggregate level, provinces with high female employment rates have lower fertility and higher contraceptive prevalence rates. On an individual level, too, economically active women tend to have lower fertility rates. Among the economically active women, those identified as “unemployed” have the lowest fertility rates as compared with both the currently employed women and the economically non-active women identified as “homemakers” and “income recipients without work”. Women with higher levels of education tend to have lower fertility and higher contraceptive prevalence rates. But, in view of the overall high contraceptive prevalence rate (over 70%) attained by the population as a whole the traditional gap in terms of contraceptive use and fertility between women with high and low levels of education as well as those from rural and urban backgrounds has been very much narrowed. In fact, once the effect of education is controlled, the difference between urban and rural women disappears. The family planning programme would seem to have been particularly effective in meeting the needs of rural women. A larger proportion of better educated, working, urban women continue to depend on the traditional method of coitus interruptus for contraception.

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