An Iranian economist said that if the country’s crisis regarding workers was not solved, violent Iran protests would erupt once again.
Hossien Raghfar told Jahan-e San’at state-run daily that many workers, especially those who are not officially hired, received very small paychecks.
“Now with the spread of the coronavirus they have become unemployed and it’s not clear how they provided their basic needs and that of their families,” he told the daily yesterday adding that workers were going through “very harsh days”.
The regime affiliated economist said that there was a 70% gap between Iran’s minimum wage and the money needed for daily expenses.
“(The minimum wage) only covers 30% of household expenses,” Raghfar added.
“These days are a great tragedy for these people. The government should support them more in this crisis”, he said.
Violent Iran protests
“It’s likely that the events of November 2019 will repeat themselves and if the government doesn’t make logical decisions during this time and continues what it’s been doing, popular Iran protests will erupt again, this time more severely,” Raghfar told the state-run daily.
During the last round of nationwide Iran protests in November 2019, thousands of Iranians took to the streets, torching banks and IRGC and Basij bases after the price of gas doubled on orders of the government.
The regime brutally cracked down on protesters killing at least 1,500 and arresting thousands more.
This is not the first time that those inside the regime have warned of post-COVID-19 Iran protests.
In early April, 50 economists warned the regime’s President about the possibility of protests due to the dire state of the economy after the coronavirus crisis.
In a letter to Hassan Rouhani, they said that post-coronavirus economic grievances could spark protests on the outskirts of Iran’s cities.
In late April, an Iranian political sociologist warned that Iran would face an “economic and social collapse” in the near future due to the country’s COVID-19 crisis. He also warned that discontent would have Iranians take to the streets in a few months. The political sociologist said that this time around, the protests “would be more violent” calling it a “super protest movement” which will encompass the impoverished to medium classes.
Workers eating less than before
Raghfar said that Iran’s working class were eating less than before.
“In general, they don’t have access to basic needs. The minimum wage is not enough for one person living alone in Tehran, let alone for a household of 2-3 people.”
“If the government accepts that the poverty line for a worker’s four-member family is 4 million tomans (around $248), then that figure has to be set as the minimum wage. This is while the government cannot pay such salaries. These problems stem from incorrect government policies, especially in the last 15 years, which have severely aggravated people’s livelihood and lowered their purchasing power,” the economist told Jahan-e San’at daily.
The current minimum wage has been set at around $115.
Hamshahri state-run daily reported that millions of Iranians had become unemployed because of the coronavirus. In a piece by Hamid Haj Ismaili, who is described as a labor expert, the daily wrote that following the spread of the coronavirus, over 5 million people were announced jobless in the nation.
“Coupled with inflation and a decline in demand, this might lead to a crisis by the end of the year,” he wrote.
Around one million people who lost their jobs were contracted formal workers and had paid their insurance. According to Masoud Babaie, the head of the Labr Ministry’s Unemployment Insurance Department, 796,000 people have filed for unemployment insurance. From these, 665,000 were found eligible while 130,000 were rejected.
Hamid Haj Ismaeili said that most workers who lost their jobs were service workers. The labor expert said that 50% of the country’s workers were employed in the services sector, of which over 90% were now unemployed.
In addition to the services sector, unregistered small businesses have also been harmed because of the spread of the coronavirus, and the government has no plans to support them. Iran’s large group of street vendors are part of this group.
A large number of workers in the transportation industry have also become unemployed.
Construction and seasonal workers, many of whom do not have insurance or contracts, have also lost their jobs, especially in various provinces in Iran.
The spread of the coronavirus in Iran has also harmed agricultural and livestock farmers in villages. According to the latest population and housing census, the 21 million strong rural population of Iran account for 25% of the country’s population. Most of these people are engaged in agriculture.
Videos were circulated on social media platforms in the past few days showing farmers protesting that the price of their crops, namely tomatoes and onions, were too low in the market and that no one was buying from them.
Controversial videos of millions of one-day-old chicks being buried alive also led to national outrage in the past weeks.