Iran is one of the most westernized countries in the Middle East. With a growing economy, a variety of opportunities, favorable weather, and friendly locals among other things, it’s easy to see why this country has become an ideal expat destination, particularly for those from other Middle Eastern states. It’s important to adapt to the Iranian way of life as fast as possible and understand its unique cultural rules and behaviors to avoid possible misunderstandings, frustration, and failure. Living and working in a foreign land necessitates lots of reliable information. That’s why I’ve created this guide, covering different facets of the Iranian expat life, to help you make an informed decision. Note that the currency used in Iran is the Iranian Rial (IRR), and 1 USD = 42,105.00 IRR (November 21st, 2019).
What is the average salary in Iran? Iranian employees earn an average gross salary of $7.18 an hour, $1,245 a month, and $14,927 a year. The highest salaries are found in the city of Tehran at an average of $1,812/month or $21,743 a year. Salaries also vary significantly between professions, so ensure you check-out the average salary of a particular job you’re interested in before relocating.
With an estimated population of 82.9 million, Iran’s Labour Force Participation Rate is only at 39.5%. This is partly because the job market isn’t well-developed and finding good local talent can be difficult. As a result, many companies choose to employ expatriates, meaning lots of job opportunities for you. Do you plan on relocating to Iran for work or are you already an expat and would like to get familiar with this country’s working environment? Well, you’ve come to the right place. My aim in this article is to provide such a comprehensive guide about living and working in Iran so you can make an informed decision. Without further delay, let’s get started!
Average Salary in Iran
If you’re looking to join the Iranian job market, it would be best to look at the average salaries of specific job titles you’re interested in. Here’s a list of some of the professions in Iran and their average yearly salaries:
- Accountant – $10,894
- Attorney – $21,647
- Cashier – $8,575
- Chef – $12,913
- CEO – $33,605
- CFO – $30,614
- Civil engineer – $13,664
- Creative director – $16,372
- Dentist – $36,571
- Elementary school teacher – $10,331
- General Manager – $26,786
- Graphic designer – $10,162
- Internal auditor – $15,530
- Legal assistant – $10,752
- Nurse – $11,907
- Photographer – $10,019
- Police officer – $11,640
- Receptionist – $11,141
- Secondary school teacher – $12,989
- Travel agent – $12,311
- Waiter/waitress – $9,109
Iran’s economics and job outlook
Living and working in Iran comes with several opportunities, but with a few challenges as well. The country has one of the largest and most populous economies in the Middle East and the North Africa region. Although economic activity is fairly diverse in this country, it’s mainly characterized by a large hydrocarbon sector. This is in addition to services and agriculture sectors, not to mention there’s significant state involvement in the financial and manufacturing sectors. Iran also ranks second in the world when it comes to natural gas reserves and among the top for proven crude oil reserves. This makes oil and natural gas the most vital of natural resources in Iran.
Unlike several other countries, Iran didn’t suffer the effects of the great recession due to its relative isolation from global financial markets. It has, however, suffered nuclear sanctions from the past, which have since been lifted and the economy has bounced back. As a result, more and more international companies are seeking business opportunities in this country as a niche market. Iran’s growth prospects are believed to rely on its reintegration with global economies with reference to banking, investment, and trade. Iranian banks are now quicker to establish relationships with international banks, meaning more opportunities for foreigners looking to work here.
Many foreigners moving to Iran do so to take advantage of the lucrative employment packages in the oil and gas industries. Many are working as senior management professionals in one of the many state-owned oil and natural gas companies/sectors. The industrial sector, which includes construction, mining, and manufacturing, is another big employer with a third of the total labor force. The agricultural sector employs another third of the workforce and contributes 11% of the total GDP. The largest employer and contributor to GDP is, however, the services sector with nearly half of the labor force. If you have good academic credits and the right set of skills, you can look for a job in any sector. Your employability, however, increases if you have reliable experience in the sectors mentioned above.
Finding a job in Iran
Most foreigners who relocate to work in Iran do so with a job offer already in place. As mentioned earlier, Iran’s job market is not well-developed and reputable companies tend to look for talent out of the country with a promise of a lucrative employment package. The inter-company transfer is the easiest way to enter the Iranian job market but you can also get a valid work permit, relocate, and begin hunting for a job all on your own.
Iran Average Household Income
The gross average household income was last recorded in 2017 at around 392.37 million Rials ($11,771) a year, which translates to 32.69 million Rials ($980) a month. This was an 11.3% increase from the previous year’s value. On the other hand, the gross average household expenditure stood at 393.6 million Rials ($11,808) a year or $982.50 a month. This means that income is less than what households need to get by, leaving most Iranians with lots of credit and virtually nothing to save for the future. There’s also a huge wage disparity between the rich and the poor. While one or two percent of the population enjoys a luxurious lifestyle, 33% live below the poverty line. The remaining millions are struggling to make ends meet.
Minimum Wage in Iran
Like most countries, Iran has a government-mandated minimum wage. No worker is to be paid less than this mandatory minimum wage. Employers who fail to do so may be subject to punishment by the government. The Supreme Labour Council of Iran is required to determine a minimum wage every year.
After much deliberation in the last session of the Supreme Labour Council, the government and employees’ representatives agreed to set the national minimum wage of 2019 at 11.14 million Rials per month, which currently translates to around $334.20/month. This figure is a 19.8% increase from last year’s value of 9.29 million Rials/month.
This is the highest year-on-year growth since 2002. Unfortunately, it comes at a time when the inflation rate is high at 30.49% and expected to rise before slowly starting to decline. Iran is also experiencing currency devaluation as a result of the recent international sanctions. What this means is that the percentage increase of the NMW doesn’t reflect the dollar value of the employees’ monthly pay and what they can actually buy in the current market conditions.
Iran’s current NMW has drawn complaints from residents who feel it’s too small to cover basic living expenses. This minimum wage is set at a cut-off that places most workers below the poverty line. For instance, a family of four needs at least $500/month to afford the basic needs of life. Needless to say, the minimum wage can’t provide a decent standard of living to such a family. Statistics show that the number of people currently living below the poverty line in this country has increased by 25% compared to 2018.
In addition to minimum wage, the law mandates a 40-hour workweek. Any hours worked beyond this is considered overtime and requires a payment of 40% above the normal hourly wage. Employees are also entitled to a one-month paid vacation per year and paid official state holidays, which are approximately 22 days a year. Female employees get 90 days of paid maternity leave, while the paternity leave is two weeks.
Average Salary in Tehran
Tehran is the capital of Iran and Tehran province. It’s the largest and most populous city in Iran and Western Asia, as well as the second-largest metropolitan area in the Middle East. This bustling city has experienced fast growth over the past couple of years and offers an environment between modernity and tradition. As the heart of modern Iran, the city is the cultural, political, commercial, and industrial center of the country. It’s easy to see why most foreigners choose to reside here when they relocate to Iran.
In that case, it makes sense that I cover salaries offered in this city to help you make informed decisions. Generally, a person working in Tehran should expect an average salary of $21,743.31 a year, $1,811.94 a month, or $10.45 an hour. Given that these figures are inclusive of housing, transport, and other benefits, the average net salary (after tax) will come down to about $318.24/month.
Salaries in Tehran are 15% more than those of Iran as a whole. They range between $245.25/month (minimum salary) to $8,023.55/month (maximum salary).
More than half of the industrial activity of the country is concentrated in Tehran. And, despite facing recent sanctions, the city continues to have a healthy economy. As a result, it offers several work opportunities for expatriates to take advantage of.
Foreigners are often attracted to move to Tehran for career progressions and to find good, high paying jobs. While it may be the most modernized part of the country, Foreigners living here are likely to feel more restricted than they would in their home countries, especially since some of their freedoms will be curbed. A decision to move to Tehran or Iran as a whole should, therefore, not be taken lightly.
Cost Of Living in Iran
Foreigners moving to Iran, especially from Western and European countries, will find the overall cost of living fairly low.
The biggest expense for most people living in Iran is housing. Even so, it is still low-priced compared to several other countries in the Middle East. For starters, renting in the city center will cost you about $410/month for a one-bedroom apartment and $824/month for a three-bedroom apartment. You can save more by living farther from the city center. It’s also possible for foreigners to own property and get mortgages in Iran provided they have legal residence.
Food prices are also favorable. Here’s a list of common supermarket prices:
- A liter of milk – $0.90
- A dozen eggs – $1.68
- 1kg of local cheese – $4.05
- A loaf of bread – $0.38
- 1kg of tomatoes – $0.88
- 1kg of potatoes – $0.74
- 1kg or white rice – $2.91
- 1kg of bananas – $2.18
- 1kg of beef round – $17.21
- Chicken breasts (1kg) – $3.79
There are several transportation options to choose from when looking to move around Iran. From domestic flights to trains, intercity shuttle coaches, minibusses, taxis, and even hitchhiking are all available with each having its pros and cons. A one-way ticket on local transport will set you back $0.20, a monthly travel pass is around $10, and taxis start at $0.36. You can also drive your car. In that case, gasoline costs $0.24 and you’ll need to budget for maintenance, repair, and insurance costs.
Other costs you’ll need to budget for, depending on your needs, income, and lifestyle, include personal care, clothing, entertainment, health insurance, as well as education and childcare for those with kids. Generally, a single expatriate living in Iran will spend about $211 on monthly expenses while a couple with two kids will spend about $720. These figures are exclusive of rent/mortgage payments.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.