DUBAI: Iran urged companies to favor Iranian nationals when hiring and said it would take stricter action against foreigners working illegally as it seeks to lower unemployment with one in four people under 29 without a job.
Both state-run and private firms “must hire workers from among Iranian human resources and, if foreign workers’ help is necessary, may only use those who hold work permits from the Labor Ministry,” Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri said in a statement published by Mehr news agency and other media this week. “Entities that do not abide by the law will be referred to the authorities.”
Jahangiri’s comments constitute a fresh “warning” to workers and employers, Ali Eghbali, who heads the Labor Ministry’s office for foreign workers, said by phone Wednesday. “If there are illegal workers, there will be action taken against them and this is common in every country,” he said. “The law existed, now Mr. Jahangiri has ordered it to be taken more seriously.”
Creating jobs in the nation of 77 million people is one the main challenges facing the government of President Hassan Rouhani, who was elected a year ago after promising to revive an economy hit by international sanctions over its nuclear program. The jobless rate stood at 10.4 percent in March, though in the 15-29 age group it’s nearer 25 percent.
Eghbali said it wasn’t possible to give estimates of the number of illegal foreign workers in Iran, though he confirmed that most are from neighboring Afghanistan.
Iran hosts some 2 million Afghan immigrants who are favored by construction companies as they work hard for less pay, Hasan Taei, deputy minister for job creation at the Labor Ministry, was cited as saying by Mehr on July 21.
Other countries in the Middle East have announced clampdowns on undocumented overseas workers, including Saudi Arabia. Police clashed with foreign nationals in Riyadh last year as authorities sought to create more jobs for locals and stave off the unrest that has roiled the region since 2011.
Rouhani has eased his country’s isolation with an interim nuclear deal in November. Diplomats from Iran and a group of six world powers have extended talks over a final agreement by four months.