Economy of Western Asia


Armenia became independent in 1990 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Strong industries in the country are the mining and chemical industry. The trade union movement is a reformed continuation of the old communist trade union.


Country Facts

State condition: Republic and parliamentarism, strong presidential power

Surface: 29 743 km2

Capital: Yerevan

Language: Armenian, Kurdish are minority languages

Labor market and economy:

Since Armenia’s independence, the country’s economic base has changed. During the Soviet era, heavy industry dominated. Today, many of the old industries are closed. Instead, the country has developed an extensive agricultural sector and is a major exporter of agricultural goods. In support of the structural changes, Armenia has received large loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). As part of these changes, most of the remaining industry has also been privatized. Another threat to industry is the lack of energy.


Azerbaijan became independent in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The military conflict with Armenians living in the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave destroyed the economy. In recent times, growth has increased. The trade union movement is close to the state.


Country Facts

State condition: Republic

Surface: 86 600 km2

Capital: Baku

Language: 90 percent of the population speaks Azerbaijani, in addition Russian is spoken etc.

Labor market and economy:

The country’s most important economic asset is oil. In recent decades, oil sales have increased every year. However, widespread corruption has prevented oil revenues from benefiting the entire population.

Azerbaijan’s trade with Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union has gradually declined, while trade with Turkey and to some extent also with the EU has increased. An internal reform of the economy has been implemented, but market reforms have not been as far-reaching as in Eastern Europe.


According to COUNTRYAAH, Georgia became independent in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The majority of the population consists of Georgians, but there are also several minority groups. Since independence, the country has implemented extensive market reforms. The trade union GTUC is one of the strongest in the region. Half of the employees are unionized.


Country Facts

State condition: Republic

Surface: 69 700 km2

Capital: Tbilisi

Language: Just over 70 percent of the population speaks Georgian, in addition, Russian and Armenian are spoken.

Labor market and economy:

Tourism to the Black Sea area is an important source of income for the country. Georgia also has a large production of citrus fruits, grapes and an extensive mine, including manganese and copper. Half of the country’s electricity comes from hydropower, the largest power plant is Inguridammen.

In Georgia, wages are low and unemployment is high. In particular, it is difficult for young people to find a job. One effect has been that many leave the country to work abroad. In 2006, the country’s parliament adopted a new labor law. Through rapid deregulation of the labor market, with precarious employment, the government hoped to be able to attract foreign investors. However, the strategy was not successful. On the contrary, the stagnation in the economy continued. The shattered economy has led to high unemployment and many people leaving the country. Over the past decade, Georgia has had a declining population.

The current government, which took office in 2012, has rather tried to re-regulate the labor market. One step in the change is to strengthen the tripartite cooperation between the state, trade unions and employers on labor market issues. The UN agency ILO also runs several projects in the country to strengthen the parties’ influence and promote trade unions and employers to conclude collective agreements.


Economic development is based on the extraction of oil and gas. Another important source of income is tourism. Bahrain is a monarchy where the king has great power, including the king appoints all members to the upper house. Unlike in other countries around the Persian Gulf, there is an independent trade union movement.


Country Facts

State condition: Monarchy

Surface: 760 km2

Capital: Manama

Language: Arabic, in addition English, Farsi, Urdu etc.

Labor market and economy:

Most of Bahrain’s workforce comes from other countries such as India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. In total, about 650,000 migrant workers live in the country. This means that migrant workers make up a majority of the country’s population. A large proportion of foreign workers are found in the construction sector and the manufacturing industry, where wages are low and employment conditions are poor. A particularly vulnerable group are the migrant workers who work in households.

In 2008, the government launched a number of reforms to modernize the criticized Kafala system – a system that is practiced throughout the region and binds migrant workers to a “kafeel” (a kind of sponsor responsible for the subsistence of workers in the country). The system gives the employer almost unlimited power over its employees and is often pointed out as one of the reasons for the slave-like working conditions under which many migrants are forced to work.

Despite some improvements to the system, exploitation and abuse of migrant workers are still common. Long working days, physical and mental abuse, low wages and the fact that employers withhold wages are some of the most common misconduct according to the report.


Iran is an Islamist republic in the Middle East. Until 1935, the country was called Persia. The country’s Islamist courts do not accept independent unions. On several occasions, trade union activists have been arrested, detained and threatened in Iran.


Country Facts

State condition: Islamic Republic

Surface: 1,648 million km2

Capital: Tehran

Language: Persian, Turkish, Kurdish with several minority languages

Labor market and economy:

The country’s economy is based on the rich oil resources owned and controlled by the state. About 90 percent of the country’s exports consist of oil. Iran is OPEC’s largest oil producer after Saudi Arabia.

Gradually, however, the country’s economy has become increasingly strained. The downward trend has been exacerbated by the imposition of sanctions on the country by the United States, including the accusation that Iran was involved in an attack on an oil rig in Saudi Arabia.

To cope with the finances, the regime raised the price of petrol in the autumn of 2019. This led to violent protests in some 40 Iranian cities, but there is no information that the trade unions were involved in the protests.