Women wearing the floor-length black robe of the devout Moslem female make bricks at a rural kiln, taking the place of men who have left to fight Iran.

Government offices have hired hundreds of women for administrative as well as secretarial jobs.

The Air Force Academy has graduated several women as fighter pilots, although they apparently have not flown any combat missions yet.

With a generation of men at the front, new doors are opening for women in wartime Iraq. A severe labor shortage in a country that already is underpopulated has pulled women into the work force and accelerated their emancipation from traditional roles.

The experience of Iraqi women is similar to that of American women during World War II, when "Rosie the Riveter" became the nickname for the woman war industry worker. Women here enjoy the support of their secular government, which is publicly committed to female liberation.

The situation is distinctly different on the other side of the 26-month-old Persian Gulf war. In Iran, the Islamic revolutionary government of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini urges women to stay at home and to accept a subordinate position generally.

"There is nothing in the Koran that says that women should not work," insisted a member of the executive council of the state-backed General Federation of Iraqi Women. "The war has pushed us out more into society, because so many jobs have been left open."

No figures are available on how many women have taken jobs during the war, but residents say that the change has been dramatic. Women today make up about three-fourths of the workers in some government ministry offices in Baghdad, where previously they constituted only one-fourth of the employes. Women work on assembly lines making heavy vehicles, in textile factories and at tile-making plants.

"The women's jobs are not necessarily the low-ranking ones," said a West European businessman who lives in Baghdad. "At my bank, the male teller will ask me to get the approval of his female supervisor to change money."

Jobs have been plentiful in Iraq -- the land that was ancient Mesopotamia -- since the oil boom that began in 1973. With petroleum reserves second only to neighboring Saudi Arabia and fertile plains between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the country has more resources than its 14 million citizens can handle. About 2 million foreigners, mainly from Egypt and other poor Islamic countries, are employed here.

The labor shortage became dire, however, with the wholesale conscription of men. Virtually all Iraqi men between the ages of 18 and 34 are in the armed forces or the nation's extensive security services.

The government has encouraged the hiring of women. The ruling Baath Party, which espouses an ideology blending socialism and Arab nationalism, seeks to uproot many traditional Islamic practices that restrict women.

"Women make up one-half of society. Our society will remain backward and in chains unless its women are liberated, enlightened and educated," said President Saddam Hussein in a comment that frequently is quoted by Iraqi women's groups.

Despite women's gains, no woman belongs to the ruling, nine-member Revolutionary Command Council or heads a government ministry.

The women's federation, a mass organization funded by the government, operates more than 50 nurseries to care for children of working mothers. Since the start of the war, the nurseries have begun staying open until 7:30 p.m. instead of closing at 3 p.m. as before.

The government, committed to increasing the population, outlaws contraceptives and abortion. With the war, however, it has trimmed some maternity benefits to encourage women to stay at their jobs. Nursing mothers, who once received fully paid leaves for six months after the birth of a child, now receive only half pay for that period.

In Iran, women are punished for going outside their homes without covering themselves according to the rules of orthodox Shiite Islam. Women in Iraq are permitted to wear the abayah, as the head-to-toe black robe is called in Arabic, but it is seen mostly in the countryside. Women in the capital tend to wear sleek, European fashions with high heels, jewelry and plenty of makeup.

In a landmark 1979 act, the Iraqi government liberalized laws on divorce and polygamy. Men -- who previously had been able to dump their wives merely by saying, "I divorce you" -- now must go to court. For the first time, women received the right to seek divorce from their husbands for cruelty or other grounds.

The law also made it necessary for men to obtain permission from their first wife or wives before taking additional ones. Under Moslem law, a man may have four wives at once.

The flood of women into the work force has raised some objections. Men in some small towns protested that their wives, daughters or sisters should not walk home alone in the evening after work.

Economic pressures have prevailed, however, and women regularly work both day and evening shifts.

"If the war goes on, we're going to have to put them on overnight as well," said an undersecretary at the Economics Ministry.