Undercounting women's work in Iran

Type Journal Article - Iranian Studies
Title Undercounting women's work in Iran
Volume 42
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2009
Page numbers 81-95
URL http://www.persiangendernetwork.org/Publications/UndercountingWomen WorkinIran.pdf
This paper explores the possibility of a considerable undercounting of women’s labor force
participation in the official surveys in Iran. According to the official data, the percentage of
female in the total active labor was about 15.5% in 2006. Furthermore, according to the official
data the share of female in total active labor in agriculture was about 10% in 1996. An
examination of a large body of field research on the subject, however, suggests a much higher
participation rate, about 40% of the total agricultural labor. This paper will examine these
studies and explore the reasons behind the underestimations. Pointing at the growing visibility of
urban women in public space, the increasing share of skilled and educated women, rising cost of
living, and the need for both male and female incomes to support an urban family, some observers
have suggested that the official data underestimate urban female labor participation, as well. The
informal urban labor, however, has not been adequately studied. Anecdotal information,
however, suggest the existence of a significant female informal economy in both traditional and
modern industries. In 2001, I undertook a micro study of 350 working age women in the affluent
northern part of Tehran and found out that a large number of educated upper and middle class
women were active in the informal market. This finding was in sharp contrast to the studies in
other developing countries in which informal participants are generally poor and unskilled and
are unable to join the modern formal economy. This paper will also explore the reasons for
undercounting of urban female labor.

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