“Even a 100-percent increase in workers’ monthly salaries would not let them reach the poverty line,” said Mohammad Reza Tajik, representative of Workers Supreme Assembly in Iran’s Supreme Labor Council on February 3.
“We are in such circumstances that even a 100-percent increase in workers’ salaries is not adequate. Even a 100-percent increase cannot bring workers’ salaries to the poverty line. A 100 percent increase in 26-million-rial [$104] salaries per month is equivalent to 52 million rials [$208], which is still below the poverty line with any kind of measure,” ILNA news agency quoted Tajik as saying.
This is while government-linked economists have acknowledged the poverty line has reached around 100 to 120 million rials [$400 to 480]. In his interview with ILNA, Tajik pointed to rampant inflation and officials’ imprudence and indifference toward people’s living conditions.
“Unfortunately, employers have raised new issues in meetings about designating minimum wages. Employers’ representatives raise strange issues because they have nothing to say and under any circumstance, the product basket is twice the workers’ current paychecks,” Tajik said. “Their only purpose is to divert wage talks and evade estimating the product basket.”
Workers’ Salaries $320 Below Poverty Line
Social disappointment and concerns about the eruption of public anger are seen in Iranian media reports. In its January 31 edition, Hamdeli daily highlighted the dire living situation of the working classes. Regarding workers’ low incomes, poverty, and livelihood crisis that society’s toiler strata struggle with, Hamdeli titled, “Workers’ salaries left 80 million rials [$320] to the poverty line.”
“As estimations show, while the poverty line has reached 100 million rials [$400], the society’s lowest-income class is still just over 20 million rials [$80]. The distance between livelihood and inflation has become more critical, particularly this year,” the daily added.
Hamdeli also mentioned that this is a long-lasting dilemma and officials have yet to resolve these problems despite their promises. “Every year, during these days, the issue of paycheck, inflation, and expenditures of the lowest-income class of society are bolded, and publications and virtual media write about od distance between livelihood and inflation,” the daily added.
“Estimations show a price of 70 to 90 million rials [$280 to 360] for the product basket. However, last years’ experience has proven that these numbers would eventually remain on paper, and what is finally adopted as [workers’] minimum wage is far away from realities on the ground,” Hamdeli wrote.
According to some rumors, MPs and labor activists insist on a 30- to 35-percent increase in workers’ paychecks. However, the government has yet to comment in this context. One ballpark calculation shows that even with a 30-percent increase in salaries, workers’ monthly paychecks will reach 25 million rials [$100], which has a meaningful distance with adequate income for a mid-class lifestyle.
Erosion of the State’s Base
Around 90 percent of working families are in absolute poverty, and their monthly payments are three times below the poverty line. This number displays a deep rift between the state and society and the erosion of the government’s acceptance and trust among citizens.
Nowadays, officials frequently speak about the “erosion of the state’s social capital,” meaning public distrust toward the entire ruling system. This distrust appears in the shape of constant social and economic protests, which have engulfed the whole country today. This may ignite Iran’s powder keg every moment and bring fundamental changes in this country.