Economy, Domestic Economy

Nuclear Deal Rewards for Skilled Iranians

Nuclear Deal Rewards for Skilled IraniansNuclear Deal Rewards for Skilled Iranians

Aryan’s timing was impeccable: Months after he returned to Iran from college in Canada, job offers started to pile up.

A decade of economic sanctions was drawing to an end in early 2016 as he settled back home, prompting a frenzied chase for Iran’s pool of white-collar professionals, reads an article posted in Bloomberg. Excerpts follow:

“It’s a battle for talent,” said Asiyeh Hatami, founder and managing director of Iran’s leading jobs website, Iran Talent.

Those with skills “and who are fit for a professional work environment are seized immediately”, she added.

The thriving metropolitan upper middle class that includes Aryan is a natural constituency for moderate President Hassan Rouhani, the architect of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers that ended Iran’s isolation, as he seeks a second term in May 19 elections.

Less clear is the degree of his support among the poor, leaving him vulnerable to accusations by hardline critics that his policies have failed to spread the benefits.

  Uneven Rewards

The nuclear accord has brought in about $12 billion in investment, and led to a jump in oil output. The rewards have been unevenly felt.

Hatami’s recruitment website, meanwhile, has seen a 110% surge in the number of jobs for professionals posted by foreign companies.

“Abroad, you’re a small fish in a big pond,” 26-year-old Aryan said as he relaxed in a cafe garden after a day drafting investment strategies for clients of the European consultancy he works for. He asked for his last name to be withheld.

“Here, each person can be the first to launch something or become a leader in their field,” he said.

US-imposed sanctions were not completely removed last year, leaving many firms wary of investing in Iran, especially with a US president who views the nuclear agreement as a “disaster”.

Yet foreign companies that have entered the nation of 80 million need personnel to navigate around language and cultural barriers, while those established in Iran, like Nestle and Siemens, are adding staff.

  On-Job Training

Most are looking to attract as first choice Iranians who often saw their future overseas and headed to university in North America or Europe.

A legal challenge to US President Donald Trump’s first attempt to lock out citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations counted more than 3,000 doctorates awarded to Iranian students by US universities in the past three years.

Local graduates require more training. Martin Tronquit, founder of a Casablanca-based data research company that entered Iran last year, said that while there’s no shortage of “brains”, soft skills are rarer.

The firm might have to hire engineers who know nothing about business and train them “how to interact with clients, how to best communicate”, he said. “Investment in on-the-job training will be significantly higher than in other countries where we operate.”

The International Monetary Fund in February lauded an “impressive recovery” in Iran, with growth expected above 6% for the last 12 months and inflation in single digits.

Last week, Rouhani defended his record, saying pensioners and those on minimum wages or welfare had seen their incomes double during his presidency.

  Conservative Challenge

Latest available data show that poverty rates in Iran increased during Rouhani’s first year in office because growth “was apparently not pro-poor”, said Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, a professor of economics at Virginia Tech University in the US, who publishes a blog on the Islamic Republic’s economy. Ebrahim Raeisi, a conservative cleric who is widely seen as Rouhani’s main challenger next month, latched on the theme, kicking off his entrance into the race by promising that his government would be that of “dignity and work”.

Conservatives have also tried to block Rouhani’s efforts to ease lifestyle restrictions, an obstacle in attracting qualified Iranians who live abroad.

“These are mostly people who said goodbye to Iran, so they will only return for a good reason, for an organization they believe in,” said Hooman Damirchi, chief operating officer and co-founder of TAP30, a cab e-hailing company in Iran.

His partner at the firm, Milad Monshipour, who attended a French business school and worked for Boston Consulting Group in Toronto, taught a tax course on one of Tehran’s MBA programs, partly to identify promising students.

The scramble for the best employees in Iran is “healthy” and will drive up salaries, which could help reduce the job-hopping that some bosses see as a problem, said Ramtin Monazahian, who moved to Tehran from Germany to found leading online shopping website Bamilo.

Aryan, whose employer also has offices in Dubai, Seoul and Kuala Lumpur, is earning a salary that’s comparable to what he’d get abroad. He gets to mix with local and visiting executives. So far, he has few regrets over his decision to build a career in Iran.

“The boom that everyone expected, an explosion of interest and investment, didn’t happen,” he said. “But at the end of the tunnel, there’s still light. Friends abroad email me to say, ‘If you see a cool vacancy, let me know’.”

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