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COVID-19 and the marginalization of Iranian women

COVID-19 has adversely impacted many segments of society across the globe, including Iranian women. Some fear the damage will be permanent.

It is not easy to work in a segregated economy while coping with the impact of sanctions and a global pandemic — Iranian women have never been this vulnerable. Women constitute one-fifth of the employed population in Iran. Their share of jobs is roughly below 20%. Many Iranian women work menial tasks to support their families, which means they work without a contract in seasonal or part-time jobs. Thus, they are not receiving either benefits or insurance. Iranian authorities call these jobs "unofficial employment," a category that exists outside the jurisdiction of Iran's labor code. The conditions discourage many women from seeking employment. Thus, their participation rate in the labor force remains low. According to the International Labor Organization, only one of every five Iranian women participates in the labor force.

Even when they enter the market, a job is not guaranteed. Women's unemployment rate is twice that of men. The Statistical Center of Iran's (SCI) last pre-pandemic quarterly report in fall 2019 estimates the unemployment rate for women is 17% compared to 7.9% for Iranian men nationwide. In the province of Tehran, the most cosmopolitan region of the country, young women seeking employment were facing an astonishing unemployment rate of 45%. The unemployment rate for men in the same age group has been 17% in the province of Tehran. Iranian women's position in the labor market had already been vulnerable when the coronavirus pandemic began. Now, the magnitude of the negative impact of the global pandemic on Iranian women is disturbing, and so is the government's lack of response.

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