Employment rate under 10%

Iraq’s women have lowest workforce participation rate globally, ILO says

BAGHDAD — Iraqi women have the lowest labor force participation rate in the world, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Just 10.6% of Iraq’s 13 million working-age women are employed or actively seeking work, ILO Iraq coordinator Maha Kattaa told Al-Sabaah newspaper, with less than one million women actually employed and the vast majority concentrated in public sector teaching and service jobs.

“This is the lowest rate globally, with 70% of these women working in the public sector, specifically in teaching and services,” Kattaa said, arguing the low numbers point to a missed opportunity.

Ambitious development projects across Iraq are expected to create new jobs but unemployment has nearly doubled to 15.32% since 2012 according to the World Bank, and is expected to remain high if new opportunities, mainly in construction and industry, fail to attract women.

“The focus in the coming period should be on women’s work and entry into the private sector,” Kattaa said, adding that jobs need to acc0mmodate women’s participation and provide decent working conditions.

Kattaa proposed a two-pronged approach: a government-backed general employment program focused on hiring women, and private sector initiatives to build childcare facilities.

“One suggestion is to create a general works program focusing on employing women and building nurseries by the private sector,” she said. “This would employ women by 30 to 40% and address child and elder care, tackling more than one issue.”

Also at issue, however, is an Iraqi labor law provision that unintentionally hinders women’s work, Kattaa said. The law bans women from performing strenuous jobs, but without clear definitions, it creates uncertainty for employers.

“There’s a need to revisit the issue of women’s employment in the labor law,” she said.

The ILO is working with the Iraqi government and industry groups to address these challenges. A four-year Decent Work Country Programme signed in 2019, extended for an additional year, focused on job creation, social protection, and improved labor market governance.

Kattaa said the ILO is developing a new program that builds on past successes, including a financial inclusion initiative that helped displaced women and youth obtain loans.

“The organization is developing a new program that revisits achievements from the past period,” she said. “This includes expanding the financial inclusion program that helped women and youth obtain loans.”

New women's empowerment platform opens in Sinjar

New women's empowerment platform opens in Sinjar

Iraqi prime minister launches council to boost women's rights

Iraqi prime minister launches council to boost women's rights