NCRI-US Staff, 13 April 2018
One of the world’s richest governments continues to lead its people into poverty. While Iran is rich in natural resources, such as gas and oil, the widening gap between the rich and the poor is becoming ever more noticeable. The egregious poverty can be traced to mismanagement by the state, massive embezzlement, and billions of dollars spent on exporting fundamentalism and terrorism abroad. Contributing factors include rising unemployment and inflation, which is reaching record levels. Unemployment and low wages have fueled protests by workers who lack the right to freely organize.
For years, economic growth has been impacted by sanctions imposed by the international community. In 2016, after the nuclear deal had been implemented and sanctions lifted, the economy and GDP grew 12.3 percent relative to the 1.4 percent in 2015. Much of this growth was attributed to the oil and gas industry, which is not labor-intensive, and therefore did not have a direct impact on the labor force. Thus, many people remain underemployed.
Inflation has fluctuated greatly over the years, but remains steady at 10 percent or higher. Rising prices make it difficult for the population to purchase necessary goods such as milk, bread, and meat.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) places unemployment at 26.7 percent for 15-24 year-olds. The lack of jobs negatively impacts Iranians, who find themselves increasingly poor and simply unable to afford to buy as much food. Over the years, their purchasing power has decreased as the Rial has depreciated in value and prices of goods and services have doubled.
Between 44.5 percent and 55 percent of Iran’s urban population continue to live below the poverty line. An estimated 19 million people live in more than 850 slums and shantytowns. That is roughly a quarter of Iran’s population, marginalized and living in shacks and hovels. These slums are deprived of basic sanitation and social services. Children lack access to education and proper housing, and are exposed to diseases. An article entitled “The trash heaps that becomes children’s food tables!” by the state-run ISNA news agency described many children searching for food in garbage dumps.
These slums can be a source of pandemic diseases that would threaten the rest of the country. Their neglected populations are at higher risk of chronic disease, intentional and unintentional injuries, and many other complications, preventable if they had access to health care.
These mounting problems across Iran fuel the people’s protests and challenge to the current regime. The harmful living conditions that millions of Iranians find themselves forced to endure are unacceptable by any standards. Inequality and income disparity are on the rise. As the few at the top become richer, the overall population of Iran is becoming poorer, and searching for change.