Economy, Business And Markets

Debate Over Iranians Working Abroad

Debate Over Iranians Working AbroadDebate Over Iranians Working Abroad

Iran’s deputy minister of cooperative, labor and social affairs is in Doha to meet with his Qatari counterpart and discuss the terms of a recently penned memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two countries’ labor ministers with the aim of facilitating Iranian workforce employment in Qatar, Mehr news agency quoted an official in the labor ministry as saying.

The official visit by deputy labor minister for International Affairs, Mohammad-Taghi Hosseini to Doha is part of the agreements reached between the two countries to set up a deputy-level joint committee to standardize labor regulations for the Iranian workers, according to director general of bureau of labor and employment in the labor ministry, Mohamamd Akbra-Nia.

Iran’s Minister of Cooperative, Labor and Social Affairs, Ali Rabei and Qatar’s Labor Minister, Abdullah Salih al-Khalifi signed an MoU in Tehran back in December to promote bilateral cooperation. Sending skilled Iranian workforce to Qatar was among the most important issues addressed in the MoU.

Creating employment for the Iranian workforce in other countries has been on the government’s agenda for the past few years and is among the objectives perused in the Fourth (2006-2011) and Fifth (2011-2016) Five-Year Economic Development Plans.

Minister of Labor Ali Rabei announced in December that the ministry plans to send at least 100,000 skilled workers overseas by September 2015, ISNA reported. The minister mentioned Persian Gulf and Southwest Asian countries as well as Australia as prime targets for the recruitment of the Iranian workforce.

In another move to support Iranian workers aboard, Deputy Labor Minister Mohammad-Taghi Hosseini announced in November that Iran’s Social Security Organization (SSO) will offer insurance services to “more than 500,000 Iranians currently employed in the technical and engineering sectors in the Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries,” Mehr news agency reported.

This is while economic experts are skeptical about the benefits of sending Iranian workers abroad arguing that not only does the move deprive the country of valuable gross domestic product (GDP), but also there is no guarantee that the migrating workers will generate enough income for the country through remittance (money transferred by foreign workers to their families at home) or other means to compensate for the loss.

In an article published by the economic weekly magazine, Tejarat-e-Farda, economic expert and a faculty of Shahid Chamran University of Ahwaz, Morteza Afgheh pointed out that since the majority of the Iranians currently employed in other countries (including the 500,000 workers mentioned by the deputy labor minister) have migrated on their own, without any support from the government, “it is highly unlikely that they will bring any for the country.”

“The remittance sent by these individuals to their families has negligible effect on the gross national income (GNI),” said the expert, elaborating that while the income obtained by the Iranians in other countries does not contribute to GDP, it is considered in calculating the GNI.

“At a time when the country is unable to provide sufficient jobs for the growing number of professional workforce, utilizing the employment opportunities in other countries could be highly beneficial,” Afgheh said, pointing out the need for sustainable long-term solutions to increase productivity and generate jobs.

To enable the country to take advantage of the economic benefits provided by the immigrating professionals, the expert said the first step would be to change the overall perception about the individuals who have left the country and establish a cordial relationship with them through embassies and consulate offices.

It remains to be seen how the government plans to firstly, achieve its objective of providing 100,000 Iranians jobs abroad, and secondly, reap the benefits of doing so and earn hard-currency.