A major Iranian state-owned company has told its single employees to get married by September or face losing their jobs.

Being married is one of the criteria of employment at the company but newspaper reports suggest that not all employees have fulfilled this criteria.

The hardline Kayhan daily newspaper reported that the singles have until 21 September to ‘go ahead with this important and moral religious duty'.

The paper did not mention the name of the company but the reformist Etemad newspaper said that the firm is the Pars Special Economic Energy Zone Company, which covers Iran's giant gas and petrochemical facilities on the shores of the Gulf.

The workers are usually young men seeking to earn a good income, and the decree appears aimed at making them marry to ensure they eschew sexual temptations during their stay away from home.

Sexual relations outside of marriage are illegal in Iran, for the most part a traditional society where young people normally are encouraged by their families to marry in their 20s and swiftly bear children.

The country is also in the midst of an unprecedented moral crackdown which has seen tens of thousands of women warned by the police for dress deemed to be un-Islamic.