Migrant Workers & Responsible Business in Iran

November 29, 2017
IBR Breakfast Briefing for States and Companies

As stakeholders came together in Geneva at the 2017 UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, IBR gave a breakfast briefing for approximately 25 government and company representatives on 29 November 2017 to share its new research on the risks of migrant worker exploitation in Iran.

IBR presented a detailed briefing on the issues business will face in Iran due to the large numbers of migrant workers and their presence in major sectors of the economy. IBR also presented its new video highlighting the key issues pertinent to understanding the risk of migrant worker exploitation in the country.

The issue is of great relevance to any business operating in Iran. The abuse of migrants in the workplace, and their vulnerability to modern slavery, is a growing problem worldwide. In Iran, this risk is particularly acute because there are over 3 million migrants in Iran—2 million of them undocumented—with an estimated 2 million migrants presently in the workforce.

Because documented migrants face employment restrictions and the undocumented are unable to work legally, they are easily exploited. Migrants in Iran work for substandard paywithout insurance and often under unsafe conditions. They typically live on or near squalid, dangerous worksites.

Migrant workers can be found in most sectors in Iran, but they are heavily employed in construction. Many of the sectors targeted for foreign investment in Iran are ones that involve a significant construction component.

Multiple factors in Iran heighten the risks to responsible business associated with migrant worker exploitation, including an opaque subcontracting environment, poor occupational health and safety standards, a weak regulatory environment and a large informal economy.

During the breakfast briefing, IBR noted that Good practices from many other challenging geographies around the world illustrate how business can address these risks, and IBR identified some key first steps companies can take.

IBR also provided participants with a preview of the results of a groundbreaking poll it commissioned inside Iran on attitudes toward such responsible business issues as protecting the environment, occupational health and safety standards, workers’ rights and consumer rights, and Iranians’ expectations of European and domestic companies.

The briefing concluded with an open Q & A session in which stakeholders could address their specific concerns and questions directly with IBR Directors Andrea Saldarriaga and Andrea Shemberg and members of our team of Iran experts.