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 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.