Iran’s latest annual increase of its minimum wage has drawn complaints from Iranians who see it as too small to cover basic living expenses in a troubled economy.
In the Friday edition of VOA Persian’s Straight Talk call-in show, all the callers from inside Iran criticized the government’s announcement last month of an increase in the monthly minimum wage to 11 million rials, equivalent to $265 at Iran’s official exchange rate, a 19.8 percent increase from the previous minimum wage set a year ago.
Iran adjusts its minimum wage annually to coincide with the Persian new year, which was March 20. Authorities said the latest increase, negotiated with worker and employer representatives, took into account Iran’s inflation rate, which official bodies have said ranges from 8 to 10 percent.
One man who gave his name as Iman and said he lives in the central province of Isfahan, told Straight Talk that the 19.8 percent minimum wage increase was too low given the plunging value of the Iranian rial against the dollar, which Iranians use to price day-to-day goods. He was among several callers who feared the new minimum wage will leave workers less well off in dollar terms, even though it translates into a higher wage in real terms because the increase exceeds official inflation rates.
Another man who identified himself as Shahram, calling from the southwestern province of Khuzestan, noted that some factory owners in Iran recently stopped paying wages to their workers because of poor economic conditions.
“Now, with this increase in wages that owners have to pay their workers, our situation will be even bleaker,” he said.
Iranians have also complained on social media that the new minimum wage falls short of what many people need to survive.
U.S. humanitarian group The Borgen Project, which seeks to address global poverty and hunger, said last September that it believes about 90 percent of Iran’s labor force lives below the poverty line. The group estimated that a family of four needs about $500 a month to cover basic necessities.
VOA Persian’s Behrooz Samadbeygi, Afshar Sigarchi and Farhad Pouladi contributed to this report.