The Iranian regime has decided to spend about $800 million to encourage more childbirths in 2022 in an attempt to grow the population. This is while the regime refuses to provide funding to resolve more fundamental crises, like access to water, and while most Iranians are now living below the poverty line.
Over the past few years, the regime’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei has repeatedly expressed the theocracy’s desire to increase the number of marriages as well as the fertility rate.
Regime officials are now trying to boost funding for the implementation of those objectives. Demographics in Iran are shifting toward a more aging population and as many of the regime’s officials have admitted, if the current trend continues unabated, in the coming decades the country will face a critical situation in terms of population growth.
Despite this trend, the regime’s proposed solutions are disastrous and counterproductive, particularly if fundamental economic problems, which are the root cause of many social ills, remain unaddressed. What is worse, regime officials attribute lower marriage and fertility rates to youth being influenced by “Western culture,” reinforcing the view that Tehran’s mullahs are deflecting blame and politicizing the problem rather than relying on technical expertise to solve it.
The State-run daily Salam-e No, wrote on January 11, 2022, “More than half of Iran’s working-age population is not economically active. Data from the Statistics Center of Iran show that the rate of economic participation of the female population aged 15 and above in the fall of 2021 decreased by one percent compared to last year’s comparable time. That is, 241,931 women have left the labor market.”
What remains unsaid is that following the disastrous eight-year war against Iraq, which the regime needlessly continued for years, the mullahs’ supreme leader actively discouraged population growth. Years later, however, Khamenei has made a dramatic volte-face, deciding to boost population growth while more than 70 percent of people’s daily expenses are dependent on state subsidies.
Over the last four decades, Iran’s population has more than doubled. The 1980s can be considered as the decade of a population boom in Iran. In the last decade, however, primarily due to rampant inflation (Iran’s inflation rate ranks sixth in the world), an increasing number of young couples have decided not to have kids and many families simply cannot afford to have more than one child.
Iran sits atop some of the world’s richest natural resources and has an educated and talented labor force that has been woefully denied economic opportunities. Now, a worsening economy that has been ruined by the regime’s mismanagement and rampant corruption has led to major demographic shifts. Many adults are simply financially unable to raise kids, considering themselves to be lucky enough to feed themselves.
One state-run newspaper wrote recently: “Unemployment statistics in the country show an increase in the population of ‘hopeless youth’ who, according to sociologists, have been at the center of protests in recent years. Young people are inevitably gripped by the pressures of the Iranian economy.” Indeed, the frequency and scope of social protests in Iran have increased exponentially, with the country experiencing eight rounds of unprecedented nationwide uprisings in the past four years alone.
The paper continued: “Even though the number of young people working as street vendors in subway stations or on the streets is increasing every day, the latest Statistics Center of Iran report pegged the unemployment rate at 8.9 percent, which is much lower than in previous years. According to recent data from the Statistics Center of Iran; ‘The unemployment rate for the age group between 19 to 24 indicates that 23.6 percent of people in this age group were unemployed in the fall of 2021.’” (State-run daily Eghtesad-24, January 9, 2022)
The Iranian society is still very much a society that functions on the premise of the nuclear family. But an increasing number of young Iranians are denied access to sources of national income, and thereby robbed of a decent future. Instead of establishing the economic preconditions for young families to grow and prosper, the regime diverts national wealth into shoring up destructive activities that are meant to preserve its weakening hold on power.
While state authorities continue to embezzle billions of dollars, next year the regime is expected to increase taxes by 60 percent while most salaries will not even keep pace with inflation. Yet at the same time, Khamenei is pushing young Iranians struggling to make ends meet to have more children.
The regime’s proposed solutions to crises breed even more crises. Young Iranians are increasingly alive to the fact that this disastrous situation will not change unless and until the entire theocracy is replaced by a secular democratically-elected republic that has the ability and the will to resolve festering economic, political, and social calamities in a responsible and sustainable manner.