On Friday, April 16, and while less than a month has passed since Nowruz, the new year in the Persian calendar on March 20, the semi-official website Bartarinha pointed to workers’ dire conditions in Iran. “Can someone live with a salary of $160 per month?” the website titled.
According to the semi-official ILNA news agency, until March 2021, the inflation chart had been ascending. The economy’s shock-therapy, which began from March 2018 and continued until March 2021 with a high acceleration, has severely increased basic expenditures.
In such circumstances, the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) has announced that it proposes to achieve a 22-percent inflation rate from March 2021 to March 2022. Back in June 2020, the CBI had set a 22-percent inflation rate with positive and negative amplitude of percentage points for the next Persian year.
“However, the question is, can the CBI obtain an inflation rate of 20 or 24 percent in the current year?” ILNA asked, replying, “Data shows, ‘no, it cannot.’ In response to such question, we should easily say, ‘The coming events have cast their shadows in advance.’”
Official figures provided by the Statistics Center show a growing rate in prices from February 20 to March 20. Also, unofficial and field data obtained by media and local reports show that the inflation rate was continued since March 20 until now.
Inflation Statistics in Iran (February 21 – March 21)
“In March 2021, the point-to-point inflation rate has reached 1.8 percent; In other words, the country’s families have spent on average 48.7 percent more than in March 2020 to buy a ‘set of identical goods and services,’” the Statistic Center reported on March 21.
The report also says, “The monthly inflation rate for urban families is 1.8 percent… and it is 1.6 percent for rural families.” This means that the prices have grown this amount in comparison to the last month. On the other hand, the Statistics Center announces that in the major section of “Foods, Drinks, and Tobacco,” people have experienced the most increase in prices of red meat, chicken, sugarcane, sugar, sweets, edible oils, and vegetables like tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers, in comparison to the previous month.
“The amplitude of changes in the annual inflation rate in March 2021 for different deciles was 34.6 percent for the first decile—the richest class of society—and 43.5 percent for the tenth decile—the poorest people,” the report added.
Inflation Statistics in Iran from March 21
Since March 21, unofficial indicators show a growing rate in prices. For instance, on April 10, the CEO of Tehran Urban and Suburban Railway Operation Company Farnoush Nobakht acknowledged a 25-percent increase in Metro ticket prices in Tehran. “These prices would take effect from April 21,” he said.
This is while taxi fares had already increased by 25 to 35 percent in different cities according to relevant city councils’ approvals. For example, taxi fares were increased by more than 35 percent in Mashhad, Iran’s second major city and the capital of the northeastern province of Razavi Khorasan.
“Since Nowruz, an average of a 35.2-percent increase in taxi fares has been applied. Of course, these amount will depend on the type of cars,” Mehr News Agency quoted the chief of Mashhad Municipality Taxi Organization Ahmad Mohebbi as saying on April 13.
Therefore, the expenditures in transferring sector have on average increased by 30 percent. In the foodstuff sector, citizens witnessed a minimum increase of 25 percent in the price of essential goods. For instance, on April 1, the official IRNA news agency reported, “The Base for Organizing the Chicken Price raised the official price of chicken from 204,000 rials [$0.81] per kilo to 249,000 rials [$1.00], meaning a 25-percent increase for the first month in the Persian calendar.”
In such circumstances, the government has increased workers’ minimum salaries by 39 percent, which reaches 40 million rials [$160] per month, and 42 million rials [$168] when calculating the child cost allowance. However, regarding the 100- to 130-million-rial [$400-520] poverty line for a family of four, workers can only cover a quarter of their monthly expenditure in the best-case scenario. Furthermore, they are not optimistic to save this status quo given the accelerating rate of inflation, let alone improving their living conditions.
Workers in Iran Forecast a Tougher Year
To have a better view about working families’ livelihood in Iran, it is useful to take a look at what has been reflected in the state media. However, this is not the whole story, and Iranian media try to portray an acceptable image of the present conditions, deterring the spark of public disappointment.
“in the best-case scenario, it is supposed that 10 million rials [$40] be added to workers’ salaries. We cannot be satisfied with this $40. In the past two weeks after Nowruz holidays, the price of all items of the product basket has been raised. Every time officials add for instance 20 percent to salaries, inflation turns out at 40 percent, which means workers are still losing out by 20 percent. Still, workers could never be satisfied with their salaries after any increase,” said labor activist Abdollah Vatankhah to ILNA.
Meanwhile, given the massive population of unemployed people in Iran, the increase in salaries would not remove any problem. Because there are always a massive number of unemployed people who are ready to gain a job even with a low salary. In such circumstance, workers have to acquiesce to employers’ exploiting rulings or lose their careers.
On the other hand, government officials can never feel workers’ hardships and difficulties, because they receive stellar salaries which increase several times the inflation rate. Therefore, all economic components have been adjusted to frustrate workers from a better future.
In reality, a manager with an official monthly salary of $1,000 to $1,400 does not care about a 25-percent increase in taxi fares or chicken prices. Instead, workers must constantly calculate how they can overcome inflation rate with meager salaries. Of course, if they won to receive their salaries.
“Even managers of the Social Security Organization, which belongs to workers and its managers should receive salaries like workers’ salaries, receive multi-million and stellar salaries. They benefit from our work, but their salaries are multiple times larger than ours,” said Vatankhah.
Meanwhile, in an interview with ILNA, Khosro Zargarian, a social activist from Markazi province, underscored workers’ main dilemma. “In fact, inflation is the most important issue for workers. Workers are struggling with inflation every day and night. They are always concerned about the increase in prices. In the past three years, everything was against workers,” he said.
“If we reviewed prices from March 2018, the price of all goods has increased by at least five to ten times. I feel high prices very strongly because my product basket is dwindling every day. With such salaries, a worker with a family of three or four needs a miracle to live,” Zargarian added.
Furthermore, the increase in official prices would severely impact other prices. “When officials themselves permit a 25- to 30-percent increase in prices, what can we expect from grocers or hairstylists?” he explained.
In such circumstance and while the government issues permissions for increasing essential goods’ prices, raising workers’ salaries would not ease any dilemma. In practice, a giant monster named inflation has ambushed millions of workers, and they would lose in a repeated game with such figures.
Therefore, workers are the losers, and employers, who benefit from their strong ties with high-ranking officials, win again. Speaking in a debate, Mirhossein Mousavi’s economic advisor during the 2009 Presidential election Hossein Raghfar recently pointed to the high rate of emigration and suicide in society, describing it as a kind of protest.
“It is impossible that such society would survive in the long run, and it would definitely collapse whether we admit it or not. Such an emigration wave is unprecedented. The youths prefer to emigrate anywhere, refusing to stay in their homeland. So why? Why do youths believe that they can obtain a good future anywhere except their own homeland? Because these policies have destroyed the entire society,” he said on February 20, 2019.
“I think sooner or later, people will voice their protests in different manners. Today, we witness various kinds of insurgents. Suicide is a kind of insurgent. Addiction is a kind of insurgent, which has unfortunately expanded in our country. And emigration is a kind of insurgent. However, these are not sole kinds of insurgent, and an insurgent may appear by taking the people to the tarmac,” Raghfar said.
“High-ranking officials should decide whether they prefer this state to remain or not. It seems that many of officials, who use bulletproof cars and bodyguards, do not feel people’s difficulties,” he added.