Women’s Work: Labor Impacts of Conscription Dodging in Syria
May 16, 2018
Fear of forced conscription means many Syrian men now hide at home, and women are increasingly taking on the roles they used to play.
Five years ago, Syria recorded the lowest rate of female labor participation in the Middle East. Now, Syrian men are increasingly the ones trapped at home.
With the Syrian government clamping down on men avoiding military service, some men are resorting to extreme measures to avoid conscription. Many who have not fled the country or joined armed groups now hide in their homes to avoid being caught at checkpoints. Others who are in prison refuse the regime’s offers to be released for fear of being sent to the front line. As a result, the supply of working-age men has plummeted, and women are filling the vacancies.
A regime official recently stated that the war’s radical disruption of the labor market has resulted in women outnumbering men in the workforce by four to one. Women are working as mechanics, minibus drivers, and restaurant servers – jobs men traditionally fill in Syria.
And although Syria’s female workers typically earn less than their male counterparts, women are finding that their new salaries also bring with them unaccustomed financial responsibilities. For example, traditional dowries are fading away, and some women even have to pay for and furnish their marital homes themselves.
Taking on the role of the breadwinner also brings some perks. Women now frequent spaces that were once decidedly the realm of men. Even in conservative parts of Syria, married women are going out to cafés to smoke waterpipes and drink coffee with friends, which would have been unheard of a decade ago. Meanwhile, their husbands care for the children, stuck at home.
This article is part of the CSIS Middle East Program series Mezze: Assorted Stories from the Middle East.