Most Iranian nurses are not officially employed. They work under temporary contracts, and are paid a small salary, which is often paid irregularly. The conditions they work under are potentially harmful, and they work for long hours, with their health and lives at risk.
A recent protest on August 24th was by the nurses was in Boushehr who protested the non-payment of eight months of their past due salaries. Previous protests have demanded back payment of salaries, but this lack of payment has a great economic impact for these families, as unemployment rates continue to rise throughout Iran.
Their working conditions are also at issue, as many nurses are forced to work overtime, and their overtime wages are withheld for months. Not only this, but they are working in dangerous conditions, as six nurses have died in the workplace. Five months earlier, it was announced that 10 individuals had died in the workplace. The figures, however, should be viewed as minimums.
Official reports state that these women are being overworked. Dr. Jaleh Ezzati, a vice-president of the Nursing Organization, said, “In Iran, every 15 patients have one nurse, while by the international standards, every nurse has to attend to one or a maximum of four patients.”
The shortage of nurses in Iran is growing, yet, reports indicate that the number of unemployed nurses in Iran could be as high as 40,000.
As medical care in Iran continues to be compromised, the situation is reaching a critical level, and the government is proposing for cheap fixes, such as hiring untrained graduates as a source of cheap labor, or using unofficial contracts to limit options.
Women’s equality is at the forefront of the international agenda, in terms of equal pay and access to opportunities. Meanwhile, women in Iran face unequal rights in marriage and divorce, discriminatory inheritance laws, lower levels of legal compensation, their testimony in court amounts to that of half of a man, and they need to gain permission from their father, husband, or brother in order to leave the country.
The working conditions of Iranian nurses are abysmal, and they echo the larger issues facing women in Iran.