Belarusian economy is unlikely to create enough jobs for all laid off workers in 2017

October 31, 2016 11:17

In 2016, 91000 people were  laid off  in Belarus, which is 1.5 times more than in 2015. The crisis in the economy led to layoffs in trade, construction and industry. The Belarusian economy is unable to create more jobs in the near future and those laid off are likely to join the grey market or look for jobs abroad.

According to the National Statistics Committee, in January - September 2016, 468 400 people were hired and 559 400 - laid off, meaning, that 91 000 people have lost jobs, which is 1.5 times more compared with 2015. Most layoffs were reported in industry, construction, wholesale and retail trade. Amid wage cuts, only two Belarusian regions reported more hires as compared with layoffs.

Partially, layoffs were due to natural demographic processes - those approaching the retirement age by 35 000 people pierced potential new employees in early 2016. However, the bulk of cuts in the economy were due to the growing economic crisis in Belarus. Retailers have faced with falling turnover and had to adjust their regional policy, abandoning loss-making facilities and activities. The construction sector was unable to find workload for workers amid a decline in the housing construction and a decline in investment in industrial fixed assets. Industry is attempting to optimise costs amid increasing competition, both on foreign and domestic markets, by laying off workers and redistributing responsibilities among the remaining employees.

In 2016, the budget sector stopped generating new jobs due to budget cuts. The IT sector is actively hiring, however, it is unable to provide jobs to all laid off workers due to the need to retrain them. The state-owned enterprises will be subject to audit to determine their real financial health, which may lead to a new wave of layoffs.

In the given circumstances, only foreign investment in various economic sectors could generate new jobs for the excess workforce. However, the investment climate in Belarus is unfavourable for foreign investors, there are no guarantees for the inviolability of private property and the government may suspend operations of any successful business at any time. The state will not make efforts to change and improve the business climate, therefore the excess workforce is likely to look for jobs abroad or join the grey economic sector.

Overall, mass layoffs in Belarus are the result of the ongoing recession. While looking for jobs, Belarusians are likely to consider the option of changing the country of residence or work out of sight of the authorities.

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The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.

In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.

The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.

There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.

That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.