Russians Work Far More Hours but Far Less Productively than Most Other Nations, OECD Says
Staunton, January 22 – Russians work
far more hours per year than do most other nations, but they are far less
productive in terms of their contribution to their country’s GDP than are the latter,
according to data collected by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
The OECD data show, “Ogonyek”
journalist Kirill Zhurenkov says, that for every hour a Russian works, he
contributes 25.1 US dollars to GDP while the comparative figures for the US are
68.3 and for Germany 66.6. Russia outranks only Mexico where the figure is 20,
a position it has occupied for longer than just the last year (kommersant.ru/doc/3195494).
But in terms of the number of hours
Russians work each year, Russia is “among the leaders. They work on average
1978 hours per year, while German workers do so only 1371 and French ones
1482.That is, Russians have to work far
more hours to produce the same amount others do.
Aleksandr Shcherbakov of the Russian
Academy of Economics and State Service says there is little chance that Russia
can break out of this pattern anytime soon.Russian productivity lagged far behind Western countries in Soviet
times, and between 1991 and 2012, it rose only by a third, while productivity
shot up in China by seven times and continued to rise elsewhere.
The explanation lies both in the
aging and out of date equipment Russian firms use and in the attitudes and
actions of Russian workers, he says. There is no sign that either is getting
better and some that they may both be getting worse.
In 1990, 35.6 percent of the
equipment in Russian factories was out of date; in 2014, the share of such
equipment had risen to 49.4 percent, Russian experts say. That is the case not
only across all industry but even in the oil and gas sector on which the
country has sought to rely.Indeed,
getting back to where Russia was at the end of Soviet times would be an achievement.
There are many reasons why
entrepreneurs and managers are not investing in new equipment: the difficulties
of getting loans, the uncertainty about the future even the near future, the
lack of available machines on the domestic market, and the increasing problems,
as a result of sanctions and Moscow’s attitude, involved in importing them from
Recently, two experts at the Higher
School of Economics, Vladimir Bovykin and Mikhail Lisin pointed to an even more
fundamental problem: “owners and leaders of firms simply aren’t thinking about
raising labor productivity – they don’t have any concern about that.” Instead,
the focus on seeking rents of various kinds.
But ordinary workers are also a
problem. “Under conditions of de-industrialiation, business is focusing not on the
motivation of personnel but on other factors of growth.” And some of them say
that talk of “’talent management’” is all very well but that a more immediate issue
is how to prevent drunken workers from screwing things up.
Shcherbakov says that the workers
lack much incentive to improve because wages remain so low: the lag there –
seven to eight times – is almost twice that in productivity – three to five
times.Some think productivity is low
because wages are slow, but he argues that only if there is high pay will there
be higher productivity.
Spain, the “Ogonyek” journalist
notes, is trying to do away with the traditional siesta to boost productivity
there. “Russians don’t have siestas,” he points out, but they do have something
else: private plots which they work on in order to produce enough food for
themselves and their families.
If Russians spent less time working
on their dachas and private plots, Rostislav Kapelyushnikov of the Higher
School of Economics says, and if that time were excluded from their labor
hours, then the productivity of Russians would rise about 20 percent, putting
Russia at the middle of the international ranking.
But for that to happen, Russians would have to
give up what has become a core part of their culture; and they would have to be
assured that there would be enough food available from other sources.