When the Iranian government changes the employment age to 10 years old and re-defines the meaning of “employment,” it is not acting according to these international obligations nor10 its own domestic laws.

(Legal Analysis)- In the last series of Iranian labor force statistics, the Statistical Center of Iran changed two fundamental definitions to artificially lower the official unemployment rate: that of “work,” and that of “employment.” The new definitions used by the Statistical Center of Iran under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s cabinet allow children under the age of 15 to be added to employment statistics, thereby lowering the official unemployment rates. These new definitions go against both Iranian and international labor laws.

According to Iranian Labor Law, the legal age to work is 15 full years, and anyone under this age is regarded a “child” and is therefore prohibited to work. According to Article 79 of the Labor Law, “Employment of individuals under the age of 15 is prohibited.” Article 80 emphasizes, “Workers whose ages are between 15 and 18 are regarded as ‘youth labor’ and must undergo medical tests by the Social Welfare Organization at initial employment.”

Changing the definitions for “work” and “employment,” however, the Statistical Center of Iran has first added the labor of children between 10 and 14 to the national employment statistics. On page 15 of this report, “work” is defined as follows: “The group of economic (intellectual or physical) activities that take place with the aim to earn an income (cash or non-cash) and whose objective is to manufacture goods or to provide services, is considered ‘work.’” According to this definition, “work” is not necessarily an activity that leads to earning an income, but rather it is sufficient for the activity to “aim” to earn income. Therefore, the background is set for children who work but who do not have independent income. For example, a child who is training side by side with his father, or who is working in a workshop without earning an independent income, is considered “employed.”

The second important point in this report and similar reports is the fundamental change in the definition of “employment.” Prior to the definition change and before the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad government, in collecting statistics for employment and unemployment, the definition for an “employed” individual was someone who had worked for at least two days during a given week (Etemad Melli Newspaper, Number 938, June 8, 2009, Page 21). But under the new definition, “all individuals 10 years and older who worked for at least one hour during a given week, or who left their jobs temporarily for some reason, were considered ‘employed.’”

According to statistics released in the summer of 2012, the rate of economic participation of children between the ages of 10 and 14 was stated as 2.9% (page 35 of the report). According to the definitions supplied in the report (page 18), Economic Participation indicates the ratio of those active in this age group compared to the overall population in the same age group. As this population’s employment rate is indicated as 91.2% (page 35), it is safe to say that more than 2.5% of the entire 10-14 population of Iran are considered “employed,” according to the definition provided by the Statistical Center of Iran. According to international and Iranian laws, however, this age group’s work is considered illegal and cannot be added to Iran’s employment statistics. Child labor is exploitation, child abuse, and a destruction of their childhood.

Article 1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child defines an individual under the age of 18 as a “child,” and therefore employment of individuals under the age of 18 is considered “child abuse.” The World Labor Organization considers individuals under the age of 15 to be children, and in defining the employed, includes only individuals 15 and older.

The Iranian government claims that they received their definitions from the International Labor Organization (Jam-e Jam Newspaper, Number 2624, August 3, 2009, page 4), and in all definitions quoted by Iran and its state newspaper, an “employed” individual is referred to as someone who is above 15 years of age. In the Statistical Center of Iran, however, the employment age has been reduced to 10 years of age (Iran Newspaper, Number 4625, October 14, 2011).

This discrepancy bears attention as the government’s view to “work” does not necessarily require earnings, and the government has reduced the labor age to 10 years old. Therefore, in its final estimates, the government announces unreal employment rates and recognizes illegal child labor in order to increase its employment statistics.

The Iranian government has manipulated other factors of the unemployment rate and job creation statistics as well. For example, in April 2012, the Deputy Director of the Parliament’s Research Center revealed another way the employment statistics are released inaccurately. In an interview with Fars News Agency, Hossein Nejabat challenged the government’s claim of having created 1.6 million new jobs. “Some jobs have been counted three times by the Governor’s Office, the bank, and the operational unit,” he said.

As hundreds of small and large manufacturing units shut down all over the country, it appears that government organizations have utilized different tactics, such as changing official definitions of words and concepts related to the field of labor, and manipulating numbers and statistics in order to increase the number of employed individuals. A January 7 Bahar Newspaper report indicated that 6,000 manufacturing units, about 67% of all manufacturing units in the country, have been shut down. The newspaper reported that this confidential data was extracted from the Parliament’s Industries and Mines Commission.

According to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the government is officially responsible for the country’s employment. According to Articles 28 and 29 of the Iranian Constitution, the government is responsible for creating jobs for every single member of society, or must otherwise provide unemployment benefits. However, the government provides inaccurate statistics and ignores the unemployment crisis, thereby both ignoring the labor rights of the people and violating children’s rights by endorsing their illegal employment.

Article 18 of the Constitution emphasizes, “Observing the society’s need for various occupations, the government is responsible to create the possibility of employment and equal conditions for employment for all individuals.” According to Article 29 of the Constitution, “It is a public right for all to be covered by social security benefits for retirement, unemployment, old age, disability, loss of custodian, homelessness, accidents and calamities, need for medical services and medical care through insurance, etc. The government is responsible to provide the above services and financial support for every single individual in the country according to laws and to fund them from public revenues and income generated through public participation.”

Unable to carry out its legal duties in the area of job creation, the Iranian government is trying to artificially increase the employment rate through entering children 10-15 years of age into the labor statistics by presenting its own definitions. According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which the Iranian government is a signatory, “States Parties recognize the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.” According to Article 32 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, “States Parties shall take legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to ensure the implementation of the present article. To this end, and having regard to the relevant provisions of other international instruments, States Parties shall in particular: (a) Provide for a minimum age or minimum ages for admission to employment; (b) Provide for appropriate regulation of the hours and conditions of employment; (c) Provide for appropriate penalties or other sanctions to ensure the effective enforcement of the present article.”

When the Iranian government changes the employment age to 10 years old and re-defines the meaning of “employment,” it is not acting according to these international obligations nor10 its own domestic laws.