Emigration of professionals, tradesmen and manufacturers from Iran has increased due to economic and political uncertainty, a top businessman has warned.
Technicians, plumbers, cooks, electricians and experts in various fields are trying to find jobs abroad. Those who cannot emigrate to Europe and the Americas, due to financial or visa limitations, choose Turkey or the United Arab Emirates as their favorite destination.
Millions of mostly educated and professional Iranians have left the country for good since the 1979 revolution and the trend has continued for the past four decades, but a new economic crisis and uncertainty since 2018 has encouraged more people to leave.
Hamid Hosseini, a member of Iran’s chamber of commerce, told Khabar Online website on Monday that he believes all kinds of professionals are migrating, essentially because they have little hope of a better life in the future.
Hosseini, who is a top business operative in the petrochemicals sector, said what he hears from emigration agencies is that the number of people seeking services has multiplied in recent months. While in the past mostly top professionals were looking to find jobs and residence permits abroad, now tradesmen and ordinary professionals are seeking to emigrate.
“Most of these people say they will have higher incomes
abroad and a more comfortable life,” Hosseini said. He emphasized that the phrase “a comfortable life” is an important window into the thinking of prospective emigrants. It shows, he said, that people are apprehensive about the future of the country. “They are tired and concerned,” he argued.
Wages and incomes have precipitously dropped in Iran since 2018 when the United States withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement and imposed sanctions, prompting high, double-digit inflation.
But the economic crisis, although important, is not the only factor in nurturing pessimism. The clerical political system has become less tolerant and more erratic and unpredictable in recent years as it has faced more opposition. Younger people are tired of waiting for a bit of loosening of religious restrictions and getting a fair deal in state-run economy controlled by insiders.
Hosseini argued that neighboring countries such as Turkey and the United Arab Emirates have plans to attract qualified professionals.
Tens of thousands of high middle-class Iranians have easily bought homes in Turkey, received residence permits and moved part of their capital to the neighboring country. Iranians are at the top of foreign real estate buyers in Turkey.
But Hosseini singled out the UAE as a new attractive destination for private Iranian companies because its government has a serious plan to attract industrial manufacturers. He pointed out that the UAE is establishing an industrial zone, where investors get free land and attractive bank loans to set up business.
Hosseini was referring to an ambitious plan UAE announced in March 2021 to expand its manufacturing sector, as diversification of its economy from an energy exporter and a commercial hub also to a regional magnet for industry. The plan is to triple annual manufacturing output from around $30 billion to more than $80 billion by 2031.
A new factor encouraging companies to leave is a plan by the parliament to impose taxes on firms operating in Iran's free economic zones. Saeed Mohammad, the president's coordinator for free zones, warned Tuesday that this would be devastating for the economy as many companies would choose incentives offered by neighboring countries.
Hosseini warned that Iran can lose a lot of talent, knowhow and capital to the UAE. Asked if a nuclear agreement and lifting of US sanctions can help the situation, he said “society needs peace and tranquility” not constant interference by the government. He singled out internet restrictions in Iran and erratic laws that are often contradictory and make life for the ordinary citizen unpredictable.
He added, “Problems will be solved when we adopt moderation…which will gradually strengthen hope for the future.”