In 2017 Belarusians will find out real unemployment rate
As of 2017, Belarus will publish data on the real unemployment levels based on sample surveys of households. Current methodology does not show the ongoing processes on the labour market and unemployment figures understate the real state of affairs. The state needs to understand the real unemployment in order to calculate more accurately the volume of funds needed in order to support workers left without jobs due to economic reforms.
As of January 1st, 2017, Belarus will issue regular reports about the unemployment rate based on the household sample surveys, which will be conducted quarterly. These reports will be published along with the official unemployment rate, which will not undergo significant changes. As a result, Belarus will have two unemployment rates: the official, based on the number of unemployed registered in the employment services, and the real, which will include all citizens who do not have an official job, including those are not registered at the labour exchange and currently are not regarded as unemployed.
The disadvantages of the current unemployment methodology have been recognised officially (the decree on social dependency aka tax on ‘parasites’). While adopting the decree, the authorities quoted at least 400 000 people, who were not officially employed in Belarus. Meanwhile, the official unemployment rate was 1% (44 900)of the economically active population in July 2016. Only in H1 2016, more than 81 000 people were laid off in various spheres of the Belarusian economy, while the unemployment rate remained unchanged.
The National Statistical Committee has previously collected information about the real unemployment levels, but this information was not disclosed due to a significant gap between the official and real unemployment. Census showed that about 6-7% of the economically active population does not work anywhere. If published, this information could spoil the overall picture of the Belarusian socio-economic achievements. Apparently this approach is changing due to the requirements by international financial institutions, which insist on economic reforms, including holding more lay-offs and enhancing social protection for the unemployed. In this regard, the state is more interested in disclosing the real unemployment rates in order to assess the real amount of funds needed to enhance social protection for the unemployed and for re-training. These funds could then be claimed as loans from international lenders.
The official unemployment rate is not reflecting the real trends on the Belarusian labour market. The new approach to measuring unemployment may reveal unemployment at 5-7% of the economically active population. Funds, allocated for social protection of the unemployed may be substantially increased, inter alia, through foreign loans.
The Belarusian authorities could to step up the opposition representation in local councils, should party members demonstrate potency. The Belarusian leadership is unlikely to have the resources to ensure 100 percent pro-government candidates in the local elections. The authorities have exhausted the grassroot support and have no funds to pay for the loyalty.
The Belarusian Central Election Commission has proposed to hold the elections to the local Councils of Deputies on February 18th, 2018.
The president has repeatedly emphasised the importance of the local councils in the power system and the state machine always tried to ensure the necessary local election results. Candidates have been decreasing in number with each elections and the authorities dealt with that by reducing the deputy corps. That said, during the rule of President Lukashenka, his electoral base has changed substantially. Over the past decade, most Belarusians have moved to cities and lost their local roots. The rural population is ready to support the president, but rural residents are constantly decreasing in number.
The Belarusian leadership is likely to permit broad participation in the election campaign and an increase in alternative representatives in the local councils. However, the opposition would have to boost its activity, so as so far it has been passive in defending its interests. In addition, the authorities, while determining the date for the local elections, have taken into account the fact that the opposition is usually the least active in the winter time.
Overall, both, the opposition and the local authorities have exhausted their grassroot support, however new local leaders may still come on political stage, although the party opposition has not yet shown sufficient aspirations.