Iran: Rising poverty, declining labour rights

On the eve of the presidential election in Iran on 14 June, FIDH and the League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI) publish a report entitled «Iran: Rising poverty, declining labour rights», documenting violations of economic and social rights in Iran.

The social and economic situation in Iran is progressively deteriorating, with an immediate impact on people’s living conditions. Unemployment is on the rise, inflation is at unprecedented levels and most people have to combine several jobs because the minimum wage is insufficient to counterbalance inflation. Iran’s population is experiencing an increasing income gap between rich and poor.

Against this worrying backdrop, workers have no right to organise freely. Official workers organisations are vehicles in the hands of the authorities to exert social control on the working people. Attempts in recent years to establish independent trade unions have been harshly repressed, and labour leaders have been imprisoned on charges including ‘acting against national security’ and ‘spreading propaganda against the system", stated Karim Lahidji, President of FIDH and LDDHI.

Iran demonstration - Credit : Javad M. Parsa

The widespread violations of rights are particularly flagrant, in law and in practice, against women in the field of labour, as well as on grounds of religion, ethnicity and political opinion.

"Government Policies marginalise women in flagrant contradiction of the universal principle of equality between women and men. Recent measures to overhaul population control policies in order to induce a higher fertility rate further deepen discrimination against women", added Karim Lahidji.

Journalists, human rights defenders, critics of the government are victims of discrimination at work as a consequence of their political opinions. Besides sentencing them to imprisonment, the authorities have frequently expelled them from work at State-owned organisations or secured their expulsion from private companies. Their relatives are also persecuted and lose jobs. A number of lawyers and journalists have been additionally sentenced to long-term bans on practising their profession.

In spite of the State secrecy and lack of official reliable data, FIDH and LDDHI are able to conclude from credible and domestic sources that more than 50% of the 75 million plus population live under the poverty line. Recent investigative reports have indicated that the population’s purchasing power has fallen by 72% over eight years from 2005 to 2013. "In that context of rising poverty and unemployment, workers are left with no legal channels to present their claims and no collective bargaining rights", concluded Karim Lahidji.

Iran Child mechanics - Credit : Javad M. Parsa

The 2013 elections will not bring about the crucially needed change. However, if the economic downturn continues, social demands and demands for respect for labour rights may keep rising and eventually challenge the current regime.

The examination of the second periodic report of the Islamic Republic of Iran by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) took place in May 2013. The CESCR’s concluding observations largely corroborate findings by FIDH and LDDHI.

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