Some 60 percent of jobs in Iran are informal, with the figure rising to 70 percent in many provinces, which makes those workers more vulnerable to economic crises, especially those that follow the global pandemic.
As always, the situation is worse for women with the Iranian Parliament (Majlis) Research Centre found that 61 percent of women were working informal jobs in 2018 and that 84 percent of those women were working in places with less than five employees.
While the Organization of Social Security Research found in 2017 that women working at home or in small workshops made up 80 percent of uninsured workers. Many disabled women work in Iran, but they do not get legal support, their rights are ignored, and their salaries are often late or missing.
The trouble is that women are seen as cheap sources of labor by their employers and they are viewed as disposable; the first to go when employers have to reduce costs.
Now, the government claims that the number of people in employment rose by 3 million between 2015 and 2019, but the truth is that the majority of these jobs are insecure and part-time, with no insurance in the event that they get sick. It is a struggle for them to survive, but they often sign contracts for low-paid jobs because they are desperate to put food on the table.
Let’s look at some of the cases for female heads of household, as outlined by the Women’s Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
Maryam, 47, a mother-of-three from Sari, works two cleaning shifts a day to care for her family, including an ill husband, without any help from welfare organizations, despite repeated appeals.
They built a small wooden shack to live in, but it has no power, the rooms have caught fire, and once the ceiling collapsed on them.
“If one day, for any reason, I do not go to work and stay home, that day, we would have nothing to eat,” she added.
Massoumeh, 50, a mother-of-two from Urmia, suffers from backache and chest pain but has been the breadwinner since her husband died. She has been unable to pay her rent in eight months because of a reduced demand for house cleaners and her landlord has repeatedly harassed her.
“The Coronavirus outbreak has had a direct impact on our life. The demand for housework has become much less than before. It’s been a long time since my children and I have eaten meat. I do not have any savings. If our relatives don’t help, it is impossible to continue like this even for an hour,” she said.