Belarusian economy is unlikely to create enough jobs for all laid off workers in 2017
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.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.