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Artisans Facing Insurance Challenges

The insurance scheme has so far covered 55,000 artisans.The insurance scheme has so far covered 55,000 artisans.

The bill proposed by Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization last year to support artisans is expected to be discussed and approved by the parliament soon.

A section of the bill will help address their insurance coverage that has posed a major challenge to ICHHTO, the Persian daily Ebtekar reported.

Based on a 2010 directive, all master artisans and workers in handicraft sectors codified by ICHHTO and working fulltime in domestic workshops or small and large production units are eligible.

They need to apply to ICHHTO that will submit their names for getting insurance coverage from the Iranian Social Security Organization, such that 20% of the premium are paid by the government and 7% by the artisans.  

Since its launch, the insurance scheme has covered 55,000 artisans. However, due to a number of challenges, including financial constraints, the scheme has not been able to cover more artists and 33,000 are still on the waiting list.

According to Bahman Namvar Motlaq, ICHHTO's deputy for traditional arts and handicrafts, the scheme faces a budget deficit of 7 trillion rials ($179 million at market exchange rate) each year.

The bill to support handicraft artisans was presented to Majlis in November last year and surveyed by a number of commissions, but did not manage to gain the approval of the previous parliament.  Officials hope that the fate of the bill will be determined soon in the present legislature.

"The bill has been studied by seven commissions. Once it is approved by the industries and mines commission, it will be discussed in a Majlis open session," said Fereydoun Mirzalou, director of the Office for Education and Support of Handicrafts Production at ICHHTO.

Mirzalou did not mention a precise time, but hoped it will happen soon.

Motlaq said that once it is approved and enacted, "the bill will task the government with meeting part of ICHHTO's budget shortage and more handicraft producers can be provided with insurance".    

This is while a number of paragraphs, which imposed a financial burden on the government, have been eliminated from the bill.

"Lawmakers say that to allocate annual budgets for the purpose, the government itself must submit a bill," said Mirzalou.  

The ICHHTO official did not mention who will pick the tab in the face of the government's reluctance to pay its share of the premium.

In June 2009, Hossein Hatefi, ICHHTO's deputy for handicrafts said two million artisans are active in the handicrafts sector. On Sept. 25, 2016, Masoud Soltanifar, the former head of ICHHTO, repeated the same figure.

This is while ICHHTO recently announced identifying 440,000 artisans, of whom only 55,000 have been granted insurance cover.

A number of insured artisans have even given up the coverage due to the rise in their share of premium and lack of insurance benefits.

According to Mirzalou, a list of over 3,000 artisans, including new applicants, have been prepared to fill the vacancy created by those who gave up the coverage.

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