Staunton, May 15 – A new study prepared by three scholars at the Higher School of Economics says that while rising unemployment in Western Europe tends to lead to more protest, the same trend in Russia and other East European countries has exactly the opposite effect, driving down the number of people prepared to take part in opposition actions.
The study, “Unemployment as a Predictor of Socio-Political Destabilization in the Countries of Western Europe and Eastern Europe,” Ekonomicheskaya sotsiologiya, 19:2 (2018): 118-154 is available at ecsoc.hse.ru/data/2018/04/01/1164751079/ecsoc_t19_n2.pdf#page=118). It has been summarized today at iq.hse.ru/news/219158221.html.
The three authors looked at 24 countries in Western Europe and 21 post-communist countries in Eastern Europe for the period between 1991 and 2014 and correlated the level of public protests with the rate of unemployment. In Western Europe, there was a positive correlation; in Eastern Europe, they found, there wasn’t.
The authors suggest that the pattern in Eastern Europe generally and in Russia in particular reflects the fact that those who lose their job are afraid to protest, they have to spend all their time seeking new work, they do not want to fall into black lists, and they fear that if they protest, those who are inclined to help them may turn away.
Another factor, the scholars say, is that in Western Europe unemployment compensation is relatively high, allowing those who have lost their jobs the time and opportunity to protest. In Eastern Europe and Russia, on the other hand, such compensation is relatively low and thus the unemployed have to look for work and don’t have the opportunity to protest.
Unless all of those factors change in East European countries and in Russia, the three conclude, there is little reason to expect an upsurge in protest activity even if unemployment rises significantly.