TEHRAN, Iran — According to The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), social and economic conditions in Iran are quickly declining.
Unemployment and poverty in Iran are rising, inflation is reaching record levels and the very low minimum wage means most citizens must take on several jobs just to survive. Workers also lack the right to organize freely and effectively. All of this is leading to an extreme income gap between the rich and the poor.
A recent report titled Measurement and Economic Analysis of Urban Poverty showed that between 44.5 percent and 55 percent of Iran’s urban population lives below the poverty line. This report was published at a conference organized by Tehran University and the United Nations Population Fund and made public by the Islamic Students News Agency shortly thereafter.
Poverty in Iran, as defined by the Iranian government, means a monthly income of less than 180,000 toman, the equivalent of roughly $600, for a family of five people.
The authors of the report — Mansour Kiani, Khalil Attar and Jila Habibi — estimated that approximately 23.3 million Iranian city dwellers live under the poverty line and cannot subsist on their incomes. The report did not include statistics for rural Iran.
Furthermore, 46 percent of Iranian women ages 15 to 24 are unemployed, and the unemployment rate for young adults is twice that of the general unemployment rate. This means that the country is officially in an unemployment crisis.
And it seems that Iranians who are employed are powerless in pushing to increase pay, benefits and working conditions.
“Attempts in recent years to establish independent trade unions have been harshly repressed,” said Karim Lahidji, President of FIDH. “Labor leaders have been imprisoned on charges including ‘acting against national security’ and ‘spreading propaganda against the system.'”
Workers’ rights are often violated on religious, ethnic or political grounds. And the regime is particularly harsh to women in the workplace.
“Government policies marginalize women in flagrant contradiction of the universal principle of equality between men and women. Recent measures to overhaul population control policies in order to induce a higher fertility rate further deepen discrimination against women,” said Lahidji.
Over the two terms of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s office, the government has consistently refused to provide the U.N. with proper data concerning poverty levels in the country. This is despite the fact that Iran’s fourth Development Plan, passed six years ago, require the Welfare Ministry to do so.
Because there is an abundance of wealth in Iran — almost all of its national government officials are multimillionaires, and Iran is known for its oil exports — many believe the rising poverty levels are structural. It seems that working citizens recognize this fact as well, since laborers are increasingly restless and may eventually turn to challenge the current regime.
The authors of the report expect poverty to continue to increase over the next 10 years. And it may take some massive form of outside aid from the U.N. in order to bring relief to the situation.
– Paige Frazier