Ever since Rouhani came to power in Iran, things seem to have changed. The new president is trying hard to fix the chaos after the two- terms presidency of Ahmadinejad. After more than thirty years of theocracy, there is a first outreach to the greatest enemy of Iran, the US. But there is more going on except phone calls to Obama and messages of hosh roshana over Twitter. Young people are glad that the gashte ershad is out sight and that they’re not bothered with remarks about their non-Islamic behavior or appearance. Political refugees of the green movement are considering their return and even negotiations on the nuclear program are progressing positively. These conditions allow one to focus on other issues that are present in Iran’s society. In my opinion it’s the Iranian economy at present time that needs attention in order to stabilize and improve the quality of life.
There are many reasons why the economy in Iran isn’t progressing as it should, considering its potential. Since I’m not a macro-economist, I won’t focus on the numerous factual aspects of the economic infrastructure, nor the ever returning question of oil; how we can own so much and yet receive so little revenue from it. I’ll leave that analysis to those who’ve studies economics. But what I will focus on, however, is the culture and ethics of work. In my opinion, this could be a part of the reason why Iran is not using its (human)resources properly.
In this analysis I only have the observations and experiences from my own family and friends to support this theory. Since I haven’t returned to Iran since the age of 7, there might be highlights in my thesis that are not quite in lieu with the perception of others living in Iran themselves or Iranians living abroad who visit Iran regularly. In that case, I would like to hear their opinion, pro or against my idea.
My theory is that the Iranian economy is not working well because those who are able to work simply don’t! I am not referring to those people who are struggling with unemployment, underemployment or discrimination on the labor market. I am referring to the well educated men and women who are raised in families in which there is a passive means of income; land and real estate owners or people who simply live off the the income of the family business. This group is perceived as the Iranian upper class.
When considering the Persian culture, in many upper class families it is still considered a taboo to work. When there is money to live on, why should one work? Especially unmarried women who remain in their parents’ home seem to be content with the ancient notion of being financially dependent on their father’s money until the moment of marriage. After that it is the husband who must provide means for the woman. But there are also many men who consider it completely normal to receive pocket money from their parents instead of conceiving their own income, gained from labor.
It is perhaps even a status symbol not to work. Wealthy Iranian boys and girls insert the text ‘jibe baba’ (daddy’s wallet) in their ‘profession’ box on Facebook and hang around in malls and coffee shops in Tehran doing nothing constructive or useful. Having to work for them means that one has degraded in status, whic is apparently shameful for the family. It is even something people would be willing to lie about in order to maintain their social status. This is just a single symptom of Iran’s strictly divided class society in which status is expressed with money and possessions. The economic developments of the past thirty years have also widened the gap further between the different social classes. The middle class is disappearing, leaving a large lower class as the laborers and an elite class of people who don’t work. Hence, my conclusion is that there is almost no middle class left to perform labor that is required to oil the wheels of a healthy economy.
I believe that no matter how much money one has, one should always contribute to society, one way or the other. I am afraid that otherwise Iran’s human capital will run dry. When all the brains are either migrating to Europe or wasting their skills and knowledge on the ski slopes of Shemshak or Dizin, who are calling the shots in major companies or organizations in Iran?
Since Iranians are Olympic champions in following trends and copying each other’s behavior, I hope that it will soon become fashionable to feel connected with society, to work hard with conviction and passion and to step out of that parallel universe that has been created in the safety of inherited wealth.