Iranian Youth in Times of Economic Crisis

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Young people in Iran have emerged as important players on the country’s political scene but remain marginal on its economic scene. They were a vital part of President Khatami’s political base and contributed to his landslide victories at the polls, in 1997 and 2001. In June 2009 they again played a key role, this time in challenging President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial re-election, which led to massive anti-government protests in the nation’s largest cities. A year later the political crisis appears to have subsided, but the economic crisis that has engulfed the country since early 2008 has deepened, and with it the crisis facing Iran’s youth. Youth unemployment is at record high levels and, for the majority of youth, marriage and family formation are increasingly becoming challenges to overcome rather than celebrations of reaching adulthood. The economic recession has drastically reduced the economy’s ability to absorb new workers just as the number of young people entering the labor market reached its highest level ever. While the challenges facing youth are at an all time high, the major policy initiatives pushed by the Ahmadinejad administration address issues that have little to do with youth—reforming energy subsidies, offering incentives for families to have more children, and amending the family laws to tighten the conditions governing temporary marriage. These initiatives and a general form of policy paralysis following the political upheavals of last summer have prevented the government from addressing young people’s problems.


Djavad Selehi-Isfahani

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