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Unemployment high, but even those with jobs not paid

By Bill Samii
RFE/RL Iran Report
Vol. 3, No. 7,
14 February 2000

Some 2.876 million members of the Iranian workforce are unemployed. This means that the country has a 16.3 percent unemployment rate, the Plan and Budget Organization reported on 5 February. These figures vary from province to province. Underdeveloped Luristan Province has a 31 percent unemployment rate, while Semnan has an 8.8 percent unemployment rate. An estimated 20.6 percent of the female workforce is unemployed, and 15.1 percent of people with higher education or university degrees are unemployed.

So if an Iranian does have a job, he or she should be grateful. Right?

Not necessarily. The Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Affairs announced on 9 January that workers in more than 500 factories have not received their wages for three to 15 months, "Entekhab" reported the next day. Parviz Ahmadi, head of the board of directors of the Islamic Work Councils Center of Tehran, said the "wood industry workers have not received their wages for 22 months." Soheila Jelodarzadeh, a member of the parliamentary Labor Commission, explained that in many cases factory owners create fake crises so they can avoid paying their workers.

The Iranian government is making it increasingly difficult for workers to demand their rights. All laborers' meetings must be held under the umbrella of the Social Welfare Organization, "Kar va Kargar" reported on 6 December. When a group requested a permit to meet outside this format to protest the Social Welfare Organization's refusal to allow short-term and seasonal contracts or to permit early retirements, the Interior Ministry rejected their request. The Interior Ministry said any gathering would be "forbidden and illegal," IRNA reported on 18 December.

A member of the Board of Managers for Labor of the Tehran City Council added that the Social Welfare Organization is refusing to pay unemployment insurance benefits, although it receives a 3 percent insurance payment from employers. It is not clear what happens to this money.

Unemployment will be one of the most important issues facing the incoming parliament, a group of Iranian experts, such as Professor Ebrahim Rezaqi, said in interviews with the 2 February "Resalat." Quchan parliamentarian Mohammad Baqer Zakeri, however, warned that none of the political factions has a clear economic plan, "Javan" reported on 9 February. Part of the government's plan for creating jobs is the promotion of small businesses, Cooperatives Minister Morteza Haji said on 26 January. He said there are currently 50,000 cooperatives in Iran.