Belarusian industry is unlikely to generate new jobs
In January 2017, layoffs surpassed hires in Belarus by 4600 people. Layoffs are common in January due to a slowdown in business activity. As demand for products increases, companies will hire new employees and when peak demand falls, layoffs are likely to resume and employment in industry is likely to decrease by the year-end.
According to the National Statistics Committee, in January 2017, some 40 000 people were hired and 44600 were laid off from Belarusian enterprises. Layoffs have surpassed hires the most in retail trade, construction and agriculture. The IT is the only industry where hires consistently surpassed layoffs.
Over the last five years, employment in the economy always decreased in January. The lowest layoffs were reported in January 2014 - only 100 people. The January employment trend is due to a slowdown in business activity, given numerous public holidays and common leaves for one or two weeks. In addition, exporters, who work mainly with Russia, usually start operations only in the second decade of January. Employees often use the holiday season to find a new job.
In January 2017, Belarus' industry reported an increase in quantitative indices. The industrial production index totalled 105.9% compared with January 2016, real wages in industry rose by 4.9% over the year. However, increased demand has not changed the employment trend. From the 16 types of industrial production only five reported an increase in employment, others only held layoffs and overall layoffs in the industry as a whole totalled more than 1000 people. This implies, that the overall excess labour has retained.
Investment climate in Belarus is not very attractive for new companies with foreign capital. Most large and medium domestic enterprises do not have enough funds to expand production. Rather, enterprises are interested in boosting the productivity of existing employees. In some industries, demand for new employees is seasonal.
In the absence of sufficient budgetary resources to support loss-making enterprises, employment in the economy is likely to continue to reduce due to reorganisations at state-owned enterprises. As compared with 2016, layoffs in industry are likely to decrease, however the overall employment in industry is unlikely to increase by the year-end.
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.