Belarusian industry to downsize workforce in 2015
Amid recession on the Russian market, lay-offs have become a major requirement for the survival of the domestic enterprises in 2015. In late March, official unemployment rate in Belarus reached 0.9%, a 73% increase compared with 2014. If Belarus wants to preserve the competitiveness of Belarusian produces, lay-offs should take a faster pace.
According to the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, in late March, Belarus counted 39000 officially unemployed, which is 8.6% more compared with late February 2015. Over the past 12 months, the unemployment rate increased by 0.4%, while the number of unemployed – by 73%. In some Belarusian regions the unemployment has reached 1.7%. Official unemployment figures are 5-6 times lower as compared with the results of a sample survey of household held by the National Statistics Committee. It should be mentioned that unemployment benefits are extremely low – USD 14.5 per month in March 2015 and in order to receive it, one has to commit to community service.
Unemployment rates grow mainly due to lay-offs in the industry. In March 2015, 8000 industry workers lost their jobs. About 70,000 employees are working part-time. Industrial enterprises, in particular in machine-building, face problems with marketing of products on the Russian market and have to consider labour cuts. The World Bank estimates the excessive number of employees at state-owned enterprises at 10% of the current labour force. For instance, in late 2014 Belaruskali employed 18,000 people and Russian Uralkali – 11,000.
Allocations for wages and social needs account for about one-quarter in the economy cost structure. Downsizing is one of the few available ways for companies to reduce costs significantly. Some industrial enterprises have been ordered to downsize employees in 2015. For instance, one of the leading rubber producers in Belarus should be downsized by 850 people by the year-end.
The rise in unemployment is a consequence of economic problems in Belarus. All in all, by late 2015 70,000 – 80,000 industry workers may lose their jobs.
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.