By Abbas Davari
On Sunday, March 14, Iranian regime labor minister Mohammad Shariatmadar declared that the mini mum wage for workers for the coming Persian calendar year (starting on March 20) is 26.55 million rials, which in comparison to the current year, has increased by 39 percent.
Since the 1979 revolution, the minimum wage of workers has been a clear manifestation of the tyranny of the mullahs’ rule. In the past few years, the minimum wage has been declared as such that it has consistently been around a quarter of the poverty line.
Currently, a large part of Iran’s economy is in the clutches of regime supreme leader Ali Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). According to an article by the state-run daily Mostaghel in June 2020: “The supreme leader oversees nine economic institutions. In the past 30 years, these institutions have become rich in assets and liquidity… The wealth of the economic institutions overseen by the leader’s office collectively amount to one trillion dollars.”
Also, Saied Mohammadi, who until recently was the commander of the IRGC’s Khatam al-Anbiya Construction garrison (a very large economic unit), said, “The IRGC’s Khatam garrison controls 35 percent of gasoline, 20 percent of natural gas, 22 percent of diesel fuel, 32 percent of oil and gas pipelines, and 50 percent of the country’s dams… About 5,000 advisory and construction contractors are working with the garrison today and the garrison itself has a 200,000-strong workforce.”
This is why Khamenei’s office and the IRGC play the principal role in determining the minimum wage of workers. For instance, in November 2015, about four months before the minimum wage for the 2016 was declared, Javan Online, a news website run by the IRGC, predicted that the minimum wage will be 8.3 million rials. Interestingly, the labor minister declared that exact figure later on.
This same type of “prediction,” happened the next year. In November 2016, Javan wrote, “Some analysts believe that salaries must increase by a maximum 13-15 percent.” In February 2017, Ali Rabiei, the labor minister, declared a 14-percent increase in salaries the next Persian calendar year.
This year, the minimum wage for the coming Persian calendar year has been set to 26.5 million rials while the state-run Etemad newspaper declared in December that the that the poverty line for a family of four has reached 100 million rials. After the minimum wage was declared, Aftab-e Yazd wrote on March 15 that there’s a “considerable gap” between the country’s inflation and the minimum wage.
In this regard, Vatan-e Emrooz daily, “According to the recent report by the Statistical Center, the point-to-point inflation of food goods in February has increased by 64 percent. You can hardly find anything whose price hasn’t increased by 100 percent in the past year.”
These figures hint that the poverty line for families can’t be lower than 120 million rials.
How Iran’s regime determines the minimum wage
According to article 41 of the Iranian regime’s labor law, “The minimum salary of workers in different parts of the country and different industries must be determined according to the following criteria: First, considering the inflation rate declared by the Central Bank, and second, the minimum salary must be enough to provide the needs of a family.” But the regime cheats to put up a façade of conformance with the standards of the International Labor Organization. For instance, the United Nations determines families as having four members, but the regime has reduced the size of families to 2-3 members to reduce minimum wages.
Again, according to the regime’s labor law, the minimum wage of workers must be determined by the “Supreme Council of Labor.” This council apparently has three sides, the representative of the government, employers, and workers. But in practice, this council is so ridiculous that the regime’s own media are mocking it. On December 21, 2020, the state-run ILNA news agency wrote, “When there’s talk of a tripartite salary committee at the Supreme Labor Council… employers and the government are on the same team. Unfortunately, the government and employers are present at all labor assemblies… The government always plays a very prominent role in labor assemblies and intervenes… Last year’s negotiations show that employers and the government don’t care about the representatives of workers and their demands at the salary committees. When the government and employers back each other’s opinions, the presence or absence of the representative of workers will make no difference.”
Comparing salaries in Iran with other countries
Jahan-e Sanat newspaper wrote on March 15, “Given that the U.S. dollar is being exchange at more than 250,000 rials in the market, the minimum monthly salary in Iran for the Persian year 1400 (starting on March 20) is $106. The minimum monthly salary is $423in Turkey, $312 in the Republic of Azerbaijan, $749 in Jordan, and $526 in Turkmenistan.”
On March 12, 2018, the secretary of work relations in the Labor Ministry Esmaeil Zarifi Azad admitted, “All human resource expenses in production and services are included as ‘compensation of employees’ in expense reports. In the United States, which holds the highest record, compensation accounts for 70 percent of expenses. In developing countries, this figure is at above 50 percent. In countries like ours, compensation expenses stand at around 25-35 percent. Our country stands at the bottom of the list with 5 percent. This means that salaries in our country are much much lower than the rest of the world.”
On April 20, 2020, Zarifi Azad said, “In the past 40 years, the salaries of workers have increased by a factor of 900, while the price of gasoline has increased 3,000-fold, bread has become 3,000 times more expensive, the prices of vehicles has increased by a factor of 3,000, the price of housing 6,000, and the prices of coins 10,000.” (Source: Setareyeh Sobh)
These figures show the depth of the regime’s exploitation of workers. If we compare the conditions of workers in Iran with those in Jordan, the wages of Iranian workers are less than a seventh of those of Jordanian workers. This brutal exploitation has caused such an economic divide in Iran that on the one hand, employed workers can’t even feed their families while the ruling elite are earning stellar income and don’t know how to spend their money.
On March 13, the state-run Ebtekar newspaper wrote, “The bank assets of wealthy Iranians amount to 5,000 trillion rials, which is 50 times more than oil income in 2020.”
And on September 22, the Resalat newspaper wrote, “Khosoulati firms [the term used by public companies sold to private owners who are linked to government officials] are earning bizarre income. This year, 6,000 trillion rials went to the accounts of managers in the steel, petrochemicals, and mining industries.”
On January 8, 2019, ILNA news agency quoted an economist as saying, “One percent of the society earns 2,400 trillion rials without any work, effort, risk, and taxes. Naturally, this unfair distribution of wealth has caused a very deep economic divide.”
This is why, according to the Mostaghel newspaper, “In Tehran, there are 14,000 people making their living from collecting garbage, 4,600 of whom are children. There are half-a-million labor children. If they don’t work, their lives will be faced with very deep crises.”
On April 12, 2020, Arman Daily reported that 32 million of Iran’s 85-million-strong population are living in city slums. “In Tehran, the population of city slums has increased to 11 million… The density of the impoverished and slum dwellers across the country is a social timebomb that can explode any time and cause social unrest.”
The minimum waged determined by the regime for the coming Persian calendar year is at a fourth of the poverty line. Given the inflation and skyrocketing prices caused by government corruption, in the next few months, the minimum wage will probably further drop to a fifth of the poverty line.
At such a point, the entire society is in crisis mode. The first spark will turn the outrage of the people into an uncontainable explosion, and will turn the coming year into one of uprising, nationwide protests, and the overthrow of the mullahs’ dictatorship.
About the author:
Abbas Davari is the Chairman of the Labor Commission of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).