Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"Over-staffing" in Iran?

The Financial Times complains of "over-staffing"1 at the government offices and state-owned companies in Iran, citing the editor of a business monthly Iran Economics.
"Because of the big youth population ["in Iran, where more than two-thirds of the population is aged under 30 and where 750,000 people enter the labour market each year"] there has been a tendency to hire extra personnel, so most of the government offices and state-owned companies are over-staffed," says Heydar Pourian, editor of Iran Economics. (Anna Fifield, "Iran Suffers as a Generation Goes in Search of a Job," 30 January 2008)
Why not make that -- i.e. hiring "extra personnel" -- a solution to the problem of unemployment (estimated by Iran's government to be about 10%) and underemployment, though? What's "over-staffing" in the eye of neoliberalism may be just the right-staffing from the point of view of workers.

1 This is not a new complaint about Iran (or any other state-dominated economy or even the public sector per se for that matter) from the neoliberal quarters. See, for instance, Akbar Karbassian, "Islamic Revolution and the Management of the Iranian Economy" (Social Research 67.2, Summer 2000):
In spite of much political rhetoric about the necessity of privatising state enterprises, their fate remains uncertain. During the past twenty years many state enterprises have become over-staffed with underpaid workers, and many still continue to operate at a loss. Only some 200 of these companies have been sold so far, and not without problems. A few have been bought jointly by active state managers and employees. There is no consensus about the fate of these enterprises. The private sector still remains distrustful of the state's intentions, arguing that privatization will not succeed without accompanying deregulation of the economy. Some privatized companies have been de-privatized during the past few years and taken over once again by the selling state agencies. Problems have occurred when, due to the layoff of redundant workers, labor went on strike. Disturbed by the possibilities of widespread unrest and other undesireable social consequences, the government ordered reposession of the sold companies, without immediate payment of indemnity to the owners.
The account of privatization, workers' reaction against it, and the state's response to workers given by Karbassian above suggests that "over-staffing" in Iran is an indication of the strength of Iran's working class.

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