Transition to unemployment measurement by ILO standard is likely to strengthen social protection of unemployed Belarusians

November 14, 2016 11:25
Image: Huffington Post

After Belarus adopts the ILO methodology in measuring unemployment, the unemployment rate will multiply. Belarusians avoid registering at the labour exchange due to the negligible size of unemployment benefits and numerous requirements for the unemployed. The new approach is likely to improve the forecast of budget expenditure on social needs and prompt the government to revise business terms for enterprises creating new jobs.

According to the National Statistics Committee, as of early 2017, unemployment in Belarus will be measured by the International Labour Organization standard. The unemployment rate will be determined quarterly based on household surveys. People, who search for jobs independently from the state employment agencies will also be measured as unemployed. In addition, the unemployed will include retired and full time students, who are ready to start work immediately and search for work independently.

According to preliminary data, in 2015, unemployment, measured by the new standard was 5.2%, while official unemployment levels totalled 1%.

The difference between the unemployment rate measured by the ILO standard and that reported officially is due to complex registration procedure at the public employment agencies. Once registered, an unemployed is required to complete paid relief works one-two days per month, if he or she refuses, his/her unemployment benefits could be suspended. As of September 2016, unemployment benefits totalled BYN 24.3. In order to report low unemployment levels, the Belarusian authorities applied restrictions to the registration at the labour exchange.

The new approach to measuring unemployment not only would enable comparing Belarus’ data with that in other states, but also would allow the government to measure the number of people in need of a job. The government could reserve budgetary funds to retrain the unemployed, if necessary, to provide free financial resources for business start-ups and to redistribute workforce throughout the country. In addition, educational institutions would be more accurate in determining the need for graduates and would cut places on specialities producing excess workforce. Moreover, the data about potential recipients of grants on housing and utility needs will be corrected. Given the dynamics, in 2016, the unemployment rate in Belarus by the ILO standard is likely to exceed 6%, which should motivate the government to take further action in creating new jobs by reducing the tax and regulatory burden on businesses.

Overall, official unemployment rate in Belarus at 1% significantly distorted the real situation on the labour market. By introducing new approach to measuring unemployment the Belarusian authorities will improve the assessment of the necessary funds for social protection of the unemployed and improve business climate for enterprises which create new jobs.

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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.