To mark the World Day for Safety and Health at Work (April 28) and International Workers Day (May 1), we will now look at the issues faced by female workers in Iran, whose living and working conditions just keep getting worse.
Women have traditionally done around 80% of agriculture and irrigation work in villages, but due to increased poverty, they are now forced to take on unsafe roles in construction or even as a border porter.
Many women (and even children) now work at the brick kilns, where occupational safety is not observed and workers’ health is put at risk from smoke fumes and a lack of safety clothing. The low-paid work lasts from 7 am until sunset and they must travel a long way to get to the factory. Some will stay on-site, but report that conditions there are not fit for living with a lack of adequate bathroom space.
While there are no official statistics on female porters, who would have to carry heavy loads across dangerous terrain for little pay, there’s been an increase in the border provinces because of poverty. Even elderly women are forced to do this physically taxing work because their husbands have died or become disabled, while educated women are taking on the manual job because of a lack of employment at their level.
The coronavirus has not helped matters because women are much more likely to be fired during an economic crisis and those who work in artisan careers will have less trade.
In Iran, the minimum wage for this year is about a quarter of the poverty line, but to compound on this, women are often paid less for the same work because they’re hired on informal contracts, which bosses are reluctant to stick to. This means that their salaries are about a tenth of the poverty line, which has resulted in a growing number of households unable to afford meat and having to settle to bones instead. Worst still, around 80% of workers without insurance are women.
As with most statistics in Iran, the ones on job-related injuries or deaths are shocking, but likely still understated because of contract clauses and the regime’s desire to make the situation look better.
Between March and September 2019, 898 deaths were recorded as the result of a workplace accident, which is more disturbing when you consider that the true number is likely much higher.
And, of course, the coronavirus has increased the amount of job-related deaths because the regime refused to shut down non-essential parts of the economy and pay workers to stay home. Even workers employed by the regime have not been given masks, sick pay, or even money to cover hospitalization.