This week pensioners in several cities in Iran took to the streets to protest their low pensions.
Pensioners in Tehran, Karaj near the capital, Mashhad in northeastern Iran, Tabriz in northwestern Iran, and Isfanan and Arak in central Iran gathered in an organized effort on January 26 outside the Social Security Organization buildings to express their economic grievances and demand their delayed pensions.
They held placards which read, “hear the cries of hungry pensioners” and chanted “we will only get our rights by coming to the streets”. They also chanted slogans such as “we will not back down until we get our rights”, “our country is wealthy, but pensioners have to suffer”, “where did our savings go? In the pockets of leeches!”
Reasons behind pensioners protests
While retirees in developed countries have secure pensions and economic welfare and spend their time in leisure, Iranian retirees are looking for a way to make ends meet by taking seconds jobs.
Pensioners are angry because of the huge difference between their pensions and the poverty line, despite having spent 30-50 years of their lives in the work force.
According to the state-run ILNA News Agency, the poverty line is four times higher than the pensioners’ wages.
The ILNA report said the current pensioners wages can only be spent on a meager 3kg of meat, 5kg of poultry and one bag of rice a month. It is not enough for rent in major cities such as the capital.
Labor activist Naser Aghajeri said that pensioners do not have better livelihood conditions than street vendors.
“I have seen a teacher who spent 30 or 40 years of his/her life teaching who is only getting 1.5 million tomans (about $62) a month,” he said.
“I have seen a technician who worked for 50 years who is only getting 2.5 million tomans (about $104), and I have seen retiree who lost his fingers while working and is not even getting 2 million tomans,” Aghajeri added.
The ILNA report also emphasized that if pensioners received wages equal to the poverty line, they would have not taken to the streets once or twice a week.
Hossein Gholami, a retired worker told ILNA, that “30 years ago, pensioners’ wages was 4,000 tomans. If we consider inflation in the past 29 years, today we should be getting 12 million tomans. Living costs have increased along with inflation, but wages have not increased.”
According to MP Abbas Moghtadaie Khorasgani, the government has used money from the pensioners fund to pay its debts.
Khorasgani told state-run TV that Iran’s first Vice President, Jahangiri, ordered that money be removed from the pensioners’ fund for the Ministry of Sports to pay for government debt.
In January alone, pensioners took to the streets twice in an organized effort. On January 3, pensioners gathered in 16 cities to express their economic woes and demand higher pensions.
They laid out tablecloths on the ground in a symbolic measure to imply that they could not afford food and their basic needs.
Before this, pensioners held gatherings in December 2020 in over 8 provinces.
Some of their placards held direct messages to the regime’s Supreme Leader Khamenei, asking him to improve their living conditions.
Due to a record low of the national currency and economic problems, as well as corruption and mismanagement in Iran, the poverty line for a family of four has increased to 10 million tomans (around $417). The absolute poverty line is 6.8 million tomans (around $283), which puts 50% of the Iranian population, including pensioners, under the line of “absolute poverty”.