‘Underground’ is routinely used for outlaw actions. Nonetheless, it has a different meaning when it comes to Iran. Today, Iran’s society frequently hears ‘underground workers.’ However, not only do these workers not take illegal actions, but they usually have to do harmful and risky jobs in exchange for two or three times less than the minimum wage to fill their food baskets.
“We have 10 million underground workers with 7 to 8-million-rial [$28-32] salaries per month. Workers do not receive any share from the oil revenues,” wrote Asr-e Bazar website on January 2.
“Here, employers’ power is much more than the workers. They easily violate workers’ rights to compensate for 90 percent of the expenditures of production. They do not pay workers’ wages,” the website added.
Furthermore, the semi-official ISNA news agency highlighted the ongoing flagrant exploitation of workers. “Often, each productive unit monthly allocates 10 percent of its expenditures for paying workers’ salaries and spends the remaining 90 percent on other sectors,” ISNA wrote on January 2.
However, this is not the whole story, and the depth of the catastrophe is far more profound. Today, some careers like underground teachers, nurses, and professors have become routine concepts in Iran.
The ‘underground workers’ phrase displays a great rift in society in terms of economic issues. However, the existence of the ‘underground teachers’ stratum’ reveals the government’s direct role in such social phenomena.
In fact, teachers are considered as government staff. They work under the supervision of the Education Ministry and teach in schools affiliated with this ministry, not in alleys. However, the ruling system has turned the education system into a field to take advantage of teachers’ hard work and people’s pockets.
“I am a teacher with 6.5-million-rial [$26] salary per month, which is miles away from the poverty line,” wrote the Tasnim news agency, affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, on June 28, 2020.
“Currently, teachers do not receive even minimum wages—approved by the Labor Ministry—and work based on exploitation-like contracts. Some people are teaching school students and receive a monthly wage of less than 10 million rials [$40],” Tasnim added.
“In recent months, the poverty line was announced at 100 million rials [$400],” ISNA wrote. However, the real poverty line in Iran is estimated at between 100 to 130 million rials [$400-520], meaning many teachers receive less than one-tenth to one-thirteenth of the poverty line.
Meanwhile, Iran is one of the worst-hit areas amidst the coronavirus outbreak. In this regard, citizens have additional expenditures due to preemptive measures, which put them in a dire situation. On the other hand, given the bleak future of these underground workers, teachers, and other professionals, they would face more difficulties.
In other words, these people have to endure systematic exploitation and plundering to make ends meet. They pass each moment of their lives in stress and worry due to the lack of fundamental rights. They reside in slums where they face unbridled poverty and where was the epicenter of recent nationwide protests such as those of November 2019.