Poverty in Iran during the coronavirus pandemic
Poverty in Iran during the coronavirus pandemic

Iran, October 18, 2020—Ten months after the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, the regime’s destructive policies have only turned the lives of the already-impoverished people of Iran. Many of the segments of the society are faced with severe financial problems due to lack of government support, and several million people have lost their jobs.

Videos published on social media by citizen reporters show many citizens have been unemployed since the beginning of the outbreak and have received no support or aid from the government.

Since the pandemic began, the regime had no plans to help the people out in their livelihoods, and the expansion of misery and unemployment is the direct result of these failed policies.

According to Mehr News Agency, affiliated with the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), the president of the Supreme Institute for Social Aid Studies declared on Saturday that 4.8 million jobs were affected by the coronavirus outbreak and more than 6 million people have lost their jobs.

If we consider 5 million of these people to be the breadwinners of their families, then the livelihoods of more than 20 million people are affected by the pandemic.

Meanwhile, other examinations indicate that the situation could be much worse. On October 15, the state-run Sharq newspaper quoted a government analyst as saying, “Most of the people losing their jobs are women and youth, and most of them are not even counted as the country’s workforce. In other words, the unemployment rates being reported do not portray the real situation and only considers the official unemployment figure, not the hidden unemployment.”

One of job sectors that has been hit the worst during the coronavirus pandemic is the production and sale of clothing.

On October 13, Jahan News website quoted Majid Nami, the deputy-president of Clothing Union, as saying, “During the Covid-19 pandemic, the clothing industry has seen a 90-percent decline in sales.”

The Research Center of the Majlis (parliament) recently declared that more than 645,000 people have lost their lives in the clothing industry during the pandemic.

Iran’s clothing industry is not alone in its struggles. According to regime figures, before the Covid-19 outbreak began, 350,000 people were officially working in the travel and tourism industry. But according to a report by Fars News Agency, affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), more than 900,000 people have lost their jobs due to the decline in this sector.

The Majlis Research Center reports that nearly 500,000 people have lost their jobs in the hospitality sector due to the spread of coronavirus and lack of government support.

According to an October 10 report by Eqtesad website, the head of the Restaurants Union in Tehran said, “So far, it has been officially declared that restaurant owners in Tehran have collectively suffered 2-3 billion rials, and there have been no measures to cover these losses by the government… Unfortunately, the government has resorted to different excuses and refrains from providing any loans to this sector.”

On October 17, Tasnim News Agency, also run by the IRGC, acknowledged, “In eight months since the Covid-19 outbreak began, most sectors have seen serious damage. Several million people have lost their jobs.”

Meanwhile, regime president Hassan Rouhani tried to whitewash his government’s inefficiency through lies and deceit, claiming that Iran’s economy had outperformed Germany during the coronavirus pandemic. On October 3, as broadcast by the regime’s Shabakeyeh Khabar news network, Rouhani said, “German officials have declared the economy has shrunk by 5.2 percent this year… Look, an advanced country with all these facilities that is not faced with sanctions and other problems is in this situation, but we are in better conditions.”

But Rouhani did not explain why millions of people have lost their jobs and why the wages of workers are around a fifth of the official poverty line while prices continue to soar through the roof.

Rejecting Rouhani’s claims, Hadi Hagh Shenas, an analyst who spoke to the state-run Shaheed-e Iran website on October 6 said, “Iran’s economy is faced with fundamental problems in many areas. It’s as if we’re saying Germany’s economy has contracted the flu, and Iran’s economy has a milder flu but is also suffering from blood pressure and fever problems.”

Rouhani’s claims of flourishment come at a time that, aside from poverty and unemployment, Iran’s economy is also faced with other macro-economic problems, including inflation and misery.

Then again, there’s little doubt that Rouhani already knows the situation is very critical and the country’s economy is in a deadlock. And as past times have shown, such conditions are ripe for social explosions and nationwide uprisings such as the November 2019 and December 2017 protests. Maybe he thinks that lying will keep the lid on things long enough to keep his government afloat until Iran’s upcoming presidential elections in 2021. And maybe, he has lied so much that he just doesn’t know what else to do.