Staunton, October 3 – Not only is unemployment almost certainly twice as high as the Russian government says, but in some federal subjects, it may be as much as 40 percent, a horrific level the authorities seem powerless to bring down and one that almost inevitably becomes a breeding ground for complete apathy or radicalization.
According to a Finexpertiza study, the highest levels of real unemployment are in North Ossetia (39.8 percent), Tyva (36.8 percent), Ingushetia (30.2 percent), Karachayevo-Cherkesia (24.8 percent), Buryatia (24.1 percent), Chechnya (22.8 percent), Khakasia (21.7 percent), and the Nenets Autonomous district (20.7 percent) (finexpertiza.ru/press-service/researches/2020/real-bezrabotitsa/).
The analysts note that unreported “hidden” unemployment is generally greatest in those regions and republics where real unemployment is highest and this “hidden” form is generally lowest in those like Moscow, St. Petersburg and Khabarovsk where real unemployment is far lower.
Elena Trubnikova, the president of Finexpertiza, says that “high hidden unemployment means for the country low incomes and is the opposite side of low productivity. The latter limits the potential for the growth of the economy and the well-being of citizens and also prevents reducing significantly property inequality.”
“The pandemic,” she continues, “has seriously hit the least well-off strata of the population and also in part the middle class and entrepreneurs. If the current crisis continues … Russia will not be able to overcome the widespread phenomenon of working poor for a lengthy period.”
What she does not say but what jumps out from this report is that high real unemployment is concentrated in non-Russian areas and especially the North Caucasus where the absence of jobs or the prospect of any improvement in the situation anytime soon is likely to lead an increasing number of non-Russians to attend to and possibly follow radical groups.
Indeed, unless Moscow addresses this problem, something budgetary stringencies and Russian attitudes militate against, the center is likely to face a new round of militant violence in places where most Russian officials and analysts had assumed it had been overcome once and for all.