How Much Is the Cost of Living for Iran’s Workers?

State-run media outlets reported on Tuesday, October 8, that the country’s food basket, or more commonly known as the poverty line, has surpassed the 80 million rial mark (equal to around $690 according to the street exchange rates).

On December 14, Alireza Heidari, an Iranian expert in the labor sector, revealed that government-approved wages did not improve workers' livelihoods. He also emphasized the necessity of paying attention to workers' minimum salary when setting wages.

Alireza Heidari stated, “Today, any worker who enters the labor market faces numerous costs of housing, livelihoods, food, transportation, education, and healthcare. Regardless of whether a worker enjoys five or ten years of experience and how is his economic status, his or her livelihood needs, and living expenses should be considered. Article 41st of the labor law has assigned the implementation of this task to the employer.”

Given the Iranian government's tough economic situation, he stressed, "This year I think we have a very difficult job to determine the wages of workers." While this expert was trying to summarize his explanation to the labor sector alone, however, he could not ignore the high prices that have broken the back of ordinary people.

While Heidari was claiming that he and his colleagues were assigned to pursue workers' livelihoods, he couldn’t cover different issues that directly or indirectly impact the workers' salaries. He stated, "As a working group, we should always consider different issues during negotiations."

During the past year, workers' living costs have drastically changed and increased due to changes in foreign exchange markets, housing, and basic commodities, etc. Therefore, if they were only seeking to provide the minimum subsistence and needs of workers, they never allowed for decreasing workers' wages under 3.75 million tomans.

Authorities' Negligence Toward Workers' Needs

The sum of workers' living costs is known as the livelihood basket. The government is supposed to provide this basket for all members of the labor society. Factually, the basket contains items that are inevitable and essential for a normal life. In this regard, numbers talk and sum up the labor needs and prices available in the market.

No need to say that workers are one of the vulnerable segments of Iran's society. Thousands of them did not receive their salary for several months, and even more than a year in some cases. Over recent years, workers' arrears are the core of many labor protests and sit-ins.

However, Heidari defends the futile labor law and claims, "The labor law has emphasized the need to pay attention to the minimum living standards of workers." But he immediately attempted to evade the consequences of vast negligence about workers' livelihood among officials. He said there are always several considerations that caused to appear a rift between [workers’] income and expenditure.

Wage Approvals Didn’t Improve Workers’ Livelihood

Referring to the increase in the cost of worker's livelihood basket, Heidari stated, “Last year the committee of wage-setting specified 3.75 million tomans as the minimum wage for workers. We could provide at best 45 percent of this amount. Now our coverage capacity has reduced to less than 35 percent.” This explanation frankly means that a worker’s condition at the end of 2018 was much better than the end of 2019. Therefore, given the inflationary process, the government’s wage approvals not only did not improve workers’ living conditions but also worsened the situation.

Statistics show that at the beginning of the year the rift between workers’ salaries and costs was 50 percent. “Now it is extended to about 70 percent!” Heidari said.

In conclusion, the toiler strata along with women, youths, ethnic and religious minorities, etc. are another victim of Ayatollahs’ squandering national resources. For years, the west wrongly calculated that these segments of Iran’s society support rulers. However, during the recent protests, the world witnessed how poor people demonstrated their wrath against the symbols of a 40-year corrupt rule. Notably, these segments, which are estimated to be 96 percent of Iran’s population, constituted the majority of those killed, wounded, and detained during the protests.

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