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.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.