Female workers in Iran who are employed for informal jobs are the first victims during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Based on the data registered in the state-run news agencies, informal jobs constitute 60% of all jobs in Iran. This figure is over 70% in many provinces. Informal jobs are more vulnerable to economic crises and to the consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic. (The state-run ISNA news agency – June 17, 2020)
The findings of the Research Center of the mullahs’ Parliament indicate that on the average, more than 61% of Iranian women were engaged in informal jobs in 2018. 84% of women employed by the informal sector are working in workshops with only 1 to 4 workers.
Women make up 80% of uninsured workers
Based on the statistics of the financial institutes of the Organization of Social Security Research in 2017, women including those who work at home or in workshops, make up some 80% of uninsured job-holders. A considerable number of disabled women are among female workers in Iran.
Not only they do not enjoy any legal support, but they are humiliated in various ways at the work place, their rights are overlooked and their salaries not paid by their employers. These women are among the most vulnerable workforce in the job market.
The hollow claim of 3 million new job holders
The clerical regime claims that from 2015 to 2019, the population of working people has increased by 3 million. But what is the truth?
The truth is that this new population of working people are the most vulnerable to the lowering of demands during the Coronavirus pandemic. The new jobs are neither in the government sector, nor in the private companies or factories. These jobs concentrate on services like retail and wholesale, repairs, transportation, brokering, and food services. This group of job holders usually do not work full-time, have not job security and no insurance. These jobs are widely dissipating because of tumbling demand in March 2019 which continued into May 2019. (The state-run Eghtesadonline.ir, June 17, 2020)
Female workers in Iran are the most vulnerable. Whenever there is a price hike, they are not able to pay for their daily expenses. These women live day by day and struggle to survive.
Female workers do not afford their daily expenses
This part sheds light on the problems facing female workers in Iran most of whom are breadwinners of their families. They do not have any form of legal support and do not receive any benefits. They have no job security and no insurance. These women are employed to do difficult jobs for a small wage without signing contracts. They are the most vulnerable at the work place.
Maryam: The days I don’t work we have nothing to eat
Maryam, 47, is a woman head of household with three children. Twenty years ago, she moved from Ardabil to Sari, capital of Mazandaran Province in northern Iran. She works in two shifts, cleaning people’s houses.
Her husband had a nervous breakdown. He stays home and is under psychological treatment. Every night of her husband’s treatment at hospital costs around 200,000 Tomans.
She has repeatedly referred to government agencies, the Red Crescent, the Relief Committee and the Welfare Organization to help improve the conditions of her family. But she has not received any response from officials.
To avoid paying rent, Maryam’s family have built two small rooms with woods and blocks. Once the ceiling collapsed on them, and another time, the rooms caught fire.
Maryam complained of poverty: “Everything is out of our power. We do not have enough. I work two shifts. On the one hand, we do not have any power to purchase any item for the house, on the other hand, with a daily wage of 50,000 to 70,000 Tomans, I have to pay for my husband’s medications, as well.”
She added: “A few days ago, I did not have even 1,000 Tomans. We did not have even a piece of dry bread at home. We are five persons. If one day, for any reason, I do not go to work and stay home, that day, we would have nothing to eat.”
There is no job security in these types of jobs especially during the pandemic. In light of the hiking price of food items, enduring such circumstances has become more and more difficult for the poor.
Massoumeh: It’s been a long time since we have had any beef
Massoumeh, 50, comes from Mahabad. She lives with her two daughters in Urmia, capital of West Azerbaijan Province. She has been suffering for years from back ache and pain in the chest. Her husband died after suffering a heart stroke. Now, she is her family’s breadwinner.
Massoumeh cleaned houses to pay her monthly rent of 350,000 Tomans a month. Since 8 months ago, she has not been able to pay her rent. During this time, the landlord has repeatedly pressured and harassed her. He has told her that he would deduct a sum of money from her deposit every month, as a fine. He knows that in the absence of any law to protect this woman, she would not be able to defend her rights.
Despite her back ache and arthritis of knees, she is washing people’s carpets and moving their furniture so that her daughters will not go hungry. She says, “The Coronavirus outbreak has had a direct impact on our life. The demand for house work 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.”
Mahtab: My income does not cover even one-tenth of our expenses
Mahtab, 30, is single and comes from the small city of Abpakhsh, near Bushehr in southern Iran. She irons clothes in a dress-making workshop. Mahtab is single and in the absence of her father, she helps her mother pay for their expenses. Mahtab is hard of hearing. Her sister is disabled because of damaged spine.
She spoke about her conditions at the work place: “The greatest problem I face as a working woman is my physical condition. Since no agency covers us, and given the present circumstances, our living conditions get worse and worse by every passing day. My income is not sufficient to pay for even one-tenth of our expenses.”
In addition to gender discrimination, female workers in Iran have always been the main victims of economic crises. Not only their employers consider them as a cheap labor force but they are also the first to be laid off by their employers in the face of any emerging crisis.