Iran’s Countrywide Protests and What They Mean for Employers
Birches Group monitors labor markets that are making headlines worldwide and wants to share news and updates on the conditions in these markets.
“Blood that is spilled unfairly will boil until the end of time,” goes an old Persian saying. For nine weeks, the streets of Iran have been shaken by protests calling for the overthrow of the religious theocracy that has ruled for over 40 years. Iran’s countrywide protests began on September 16, when 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in police custody. Amini was detained in Tehran for allegedly not observing the country’s dress code for women and collapsed into a coma at a police station. A photo and video of Amini in the hospital were shared online and quickly went viral.
Iran has a long history of demonstrations and unrest. But the events since mid-September are different. They are led by women and young girls with no organizing force or leadership. They are spontaneous, persistent, widespread, and supported by people from different layers of society. Students and older Iranians, merchants and labor unions, and the middle and working classes have taken to university campuses and onto the streets of over 100 villages, towns, and cities across the country. Iranian expatriates have also rallied in support in Berlin, Washington DC, and Los Angeles.
And despite violent clashes with security forces, more than 14,000 arrests, and mobile and internet restrictions, dissent rages on with remarkable defiance.
The protests and the economy
The demonstrations across Iran now go far beyond Amini’s death and women’s rights. They have moved from demands for reform to demands for systemic changes, an expert told NBC News.
The protests have quickly swelled in response to the Islamic republic’s economic stagnation. The BBC says that, on average, Iranian families are “quite a lot poorer than they were 15 years ago.” Iran’s middle class has shrunk dramatically since 2018, with a third of its population falling into poverty. 23% of the youth population is unemployed, according to the Financial Times.
Additionally, Iran is facing a record inflation of 42.9%. Its currency, the Rial, has sunk to all-time lows. Since August, the Iran Rial has lost more than 20% of its value against the United States (US) dollar.
Businesses, shop owners, and bazaar traders in several cities closed their stores and went on strike, joining the protests in solidarity, Bloomberg and Iran Wire report. According to a primer from the United States Institute of Peace, factory workers in the energy and petrochemical industries also went on strike.
The Iran Chamber of Commerce warns that every hour of internet restrictions due to the protests costs US$1.5 million in damages to the Iranian economy. Research from the Tehran Computer Trade Union Organization states that 47% of internet businesses have lost more than 50% of their income. If the internet disruptions continue, 73% of businesses with less than 50 employees will lose over US$1,100 daily.
The government is considering a 20% pay raise for state workers. Still, the Rial’s sharp fall has eaten away at any benefit for workers, says London-based Iranian news website Iran International.
How we can help
Policies and procedures for keeping pay programs functioning in highly volatile markets such as Iran are critical. Organizations must develop a Special Measures Policy to determine the triggers and equivalent measures to support staff and ensure business continuity during political unrest. In addition, decide how your organization plans to implement the next steps for your staff. Employees need to know they can rely on their employer to help them during times of uncertainty.
We at Birches Group have extensive expertise in developing Special Measures Policies for organizations across different markets and sectors. Speak with our consultants today to find out how we can create one for you.