- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

Featured Fellow: Djavad Salehi-Isfahani

  • Meredith Blake
| Winter 2010-11

Djavad Salehi-Isfahani researches impact on sanctions on Iran, youth unemployment on Middle East

Salehi-Isfahani is an associate with the Belfer Center's Dubai Initiative and a professor of economics at Virginia Tech.

Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, an associate and former fellow of the Belfer Center's Dubai Initiative and professor of economics at Virginia Tech, believes sanctions against Iran will hurt Iranian citizens and may not achieve the goals of persuading Iran to change its nuclear policy.

A native of Iran, Salehi-Isfahani specializes in the economies of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).  He believes the ordinary Iranians who will suffer from the economic sanctions will not be sympathetic to the Western cause in part because the sanctions "do not carry a moral weight with them."

"These new sanctions will add to the economic pain, they will deepen the current economic recession in Iran, but I'm not quite sure they will affect the country's policies, specifically on the nuclear issue," Salehi-Isfahani said.   "Iran lives in a neighborhood where there are nuclear powers:  India, Pakistan, Israel. Because the U.S. has not put similar pressure on these countries, Iranians feel that the U.S. does not want Iran to become a major regional power."

Another pressing issue researched by Salehi-Isfahani, who has a bachelors degree from the University of London and a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University, is the place of Middle East youth in a modern workforce. His research examines what has been termed "waithood," the long period following school before Middle Eastern youth can begin careers.

In Iran, for example, about 25 percent of people under the age of 30 are unemployed, compared with just five percent of people over the age of 30, Salehi-Isfahani said. "That is exclusion of young people. They are not allowed to compete for jobs with older workers." Allowing more competition in the labor market is important for youth, he said, because it enables them to accumulate, rather than depreciate, skills while searching for their first permanent job.

Salehi-Isfahani is encouraged by the development of the Dubai School of Government, with which the Dubai Initiative is a major partner.  The DSG is a "very promising place in the region where this kind of research can be carried out which would allow policy makers in the Persian Gulf and wider Middle East to see the benefits of doing good research with good data to understand problems and find solutions. "

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Blake, Meredith. Featured Fellow: Djavad Salehi-Isfahani.” Belfer Center Newsletter (Winter 2010-11).

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