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EghtesadOnline: The number of Afghan migrants returning home from Iran hit an unprecedented high of 800,109 during the first 11 months of 2020.

According to a report by Fars News Agency quoting the International Organization for Migration, Iran hosted 2.7 million international migrants last year, of which 2.3 million were from Afghanistan, 84,100 from Iraq and 27,900 were from Pakistan. 

In 1990, 4.3 million international migrants lived in Iran, which figure was on the decline up to 2000. In the following years, the figure remained almost unchanged. 

Estimates put the population of undocumented migrants in Iran at 979,000.

By December 2020, a total of 800,109 Afghans returned home from Iran, registering the highest return in years. 

The average number of Afghan returnees stood at 525,000 annually. 

With the economic meltdown in Iran, the number of Afghan returnees increased to 757,000 in 2018.

Afghans returning from neighboring Pakistan dropped to the lowest of 6,191 over the 11-month period to Dec. 2020. 

Of the 800,109 Afghan returnees from Iran, 499,885 were voluntary while 300,224 were deported by the police. The number of undocumented migrants to Iran has reached its lowest at present; most of those living in Iran have been here for decades and their family’s socio-cultural roots have prevented them from returning to their fathers’ homeland. 

As per unofficial estimates, nearly one million Afghan workers are working in Iran as unskilled and semi-skilled labor. 

A total of 776,400 native, jobless men were either illiterate or had primary education last year. Illiterate, unemployed men are distributed unevenly across the country. They are mostly crowded in underprivileged provinces and are reluctant to migrate to large cities due to problems and costs associated with living there. As a result, the paucity of unskilled labor is more pronounced in large cities and provincial capitals than in underprivileged areas. 

There won’t be enough unskilled, native labor to replace the existing Afghan workers in case they decide to return to their home country. Zero unemployment is in fact a recipe for crisis in the labor market. 

“Employers will have to offer high wages to lure workers away from their rivals. The hike in wages might make it impossible for employers to continue the project and they might opt for wealth-generating approaches that don’t need labor force,” Zahra Karimi, economist and university professor, wrote in an article for the Persian-language daily Donya-e-Eqtesad

“The presence of Afghan workers also corroborates that there is high demand for unskilled labor in Iran, that demand for unskilled labor outweighs supply. Despite the presence of migrant workers, last year’s unemployment rate of jobless men who were either illiterate or had primary education stood at 4.1% and 6.3%, respectively.”

According to Karimi, Afghans working in Iran are not competing with educated jobless Iranians; their return won’t solve the unemployment problem of the university graduates. 

“Their deportation will drive up the wages of unskilled workers and create an array of problems for employers. The rise in costs related to labor force will consequently lead to a decline in production and the emergence of recession. Under the circumstances, the Iranian workforce won’t benefit from the expulsion of migrant workers,” she said. 


Iran migrants Afghan