Despite widespread celebrations and rallies by workers around the world on May 1, Iranian workers will not be celebrating Labor Day. Forty-two years after the revolution that deposed the monarchists and brought the clerics to power, Iran’s workers have never been this destitute and of course, have never been this angry.
Here’s why: While the poverty line for each family in Iran is estimated at more than 10 million tomans [around $422] most Iranian workers live on less than 3 million tomans. Because of this, more than 80% of Iranians live below the poverty line, barely able to support themselves and their families.
As a result, more than 35 million people who cannot afford the high cost of housing in major cities are forced to live on the outskirts of cities in slums and shanty towns. In addition to this, millions of Iranian workers can no longer afford to eat meat and fruit.
Iranian officials put unemployment for workers at around 23.5%, about a quarter of the labor force. But much like all statistics announced by the regime, the real figures are much higher. Widespread, institutionalized government corruption has also led to the closure of many factories, leaving millions of workers without jobs.
Dozens of famous and large factories such as the Varamin Sugar Factory, Pars Chrome Khazar Factory, Iran Powder Metallurgy Complex – the only producer of iron powder in Iran and the Middle East – and several textile factories were all shut down, leaving their workers unemployed.
Widespread government corruption and policies that violate workers’ rights have opened the door for industry owners and employers to hire many temporary workers who don’t enjoy insurance and medical benefits. These workers are usually not paid on time and are fired when they demand their unpaid wages.
As a result, the children of workers have been forced to drop out of school and work on the streets to help their families. Although the exact number of Iran’s child laborers is not known, it is estimated that between 3 to 7 million children work on Iran’s streets and workshops.
Most of these children work as street vendors, garbage scavengers, and brick kiln workers, doing hard labor. These children are exploited and abused and are robbed of their childhood.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the regime’s gross negligence coupled with a ban on US and UK made vaccines by the regime’s Supreme Leader has added to the plight of Iran’s workers.
Iran’s government did not and has not provided any financial aid to workers forcing them to go to work regardless of the deadly virus and the risk of infection. Many workers have passed away from COVID-19 leaving their families without their breadwinner.
Faced with these appalling conditions, Iran’s workers hold daily street protests to demand their rights despite being beaten, arrested, and even lashed for wanting to live with dignity.
The regime knows the main threat to its existence is the wrath of Iran’s workers and the people in general. Many believe the regime and its Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei have taken advantage of the pandemic to quell protests. However, many Iranians say conditions are so bleak, they feel as if they have nothing else to lose and are angry enough to brave the dangers of the regime’s brutality and suppression of major protests such as were seen in 2018 and 2019 across Iran.