Adding fuel to fire, the labor minister Ali Rabi’i, announced last month that “1.1 million college graduates currently entering the job market won’t be able to find work, in addition to the 4.5 million college students that will also soon be graduating.” He added that the regime must act swiftly to prevent a “tsunami of 5.6 million educated job seekers” entering a stagnant job market.
This economic epidemic is a result of misguided population growth policies instigated at the behest of Ayatollah Khomeini during the height of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980’s. These policies led to an Iranian “baby boom,” which today has reached its peak; over 60 percent of Iran’s 77 million people are under the age of 30. Yet structural economic deficiencies have prevented this young, educated population from flourishing. There are more than 1.5 million students who already have doctorates, bachelor’s or associate’s degrees but are unable to find work. With youth unemployment currently at 26 percent, or double the national average, many have left the country in search of better opportunities.
According to Iran’s National Elites Foundation, a governmental organization that supports academically gifted students, in the past two years, at least 40 percent of top-performing students with advanced degrees have left the country in pursuit of higher education. A report published by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), found that this annual exodus totals around 150,000 – 180,000 students. This is equivalent to a $50 billion capital loss.
Students who remain in Iran face numerous challenges. Currently, students who are fortunate enough to find work often have to work multiple menial jobs in order to make ends meet. The average monthly salary of university graduates is just under $500. The lack of opportunity has also had dire consequences on the social & psychological well-being of individuals. Not being able to provide for their families or significant others has lead to postponed marriages, increased divorce rates and high levels of depression.