Sunday, September 14, 2008

Provincial Offices in Iran and Women

The expanding service sector, growing number of private contractors and an increasing female college graduate population have increased both female workers participation rate and female employment in Iran. This has introduced a new phenomenon to provincial offices of government agencies and ministries: female engineers and representatives of consulting firms and contractors.
Wrapped in traditions and old understandings of one’s roles and duties the local administrators vacillate between denial and acceptance. A recent example is that of Transportation Ministry Provincial Office in Kerman. They simply banned female representatives of their contractors and consulting firms from entering the building. Reported by Tabnak website currently this office only answers men and letters delivered by men.
Reading the related article your correspondent was amazed to read the comments of other readers. While some were outraged and severely critical of such decision, some were actually supportive of such a decision. These were divided mainly into two groups.
First group included those who believed since there are unemployed men in the country; women should not have been employed in the first place. One even said: “If we had logic in our decisions in this country, jobs would have gone to men first and then unfilled positions to women.” This argument does not rest on productivity and the benefits of a competitive labor market.
The second group constituted of those who simply said women get through the official system in Iran, because they are attractive. This absurd generalization of the fact of matter is denying the abilities and skills of hundreds of women in Iran who work hard and efficiently and get through the system because of their persistence.
Reading these arguments one has no choice but to point out that the absence of economic analysis of the realities of labor market has given rise to popular misconceptions and beliefs of female labor force, unemployment and the causes of unemployment. Men are not unemployed because some women are employed and women are not more efficient because they are attractive! In the void created by these misconceptions it is not difficult for some local administrators go as far as banning women from entering their building!
The complexities of Iran’s society and its culture and the different agendas of its so many localities make development such an elaborate matter. Coming to such cases one has to notice that there are some provincial communities who advocate such policies. Iranian women battle for economic self-sufficiency and equal employment rights has been a long one, but it is far from over. One way to assist them is to remind such communities of the facts of the matter and the realities of one’s incentives in a labor market.

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