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.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.