Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Real Unemployment in Russia ‘Three to Four Times Higher’ than Official Statistics, Yardayeva Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 22 – Vladimir Putin says unemployment in Russia has fallen to “a historic minimum” in recent times (rbc.ru/rbcfreenews/5dd51f419a79477d02cd13c6). That is not true even according to official statistics which show that the number of Russians unemployed has actually risen since August.

            But Marina Yardayeva, a journalist for the Rosbalt news agency, points out, such official figures dramatically understate unemployment in Russia. The actual figure, she argues, is three to four times the official rate and that approximately one Russian adult in six is now without a job (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2019/11/22/1814606.html).

            Official undercounts of statistics reflect not just official desires to put the best face on things but the ways in which unemployment is calculated in Russia, the journalist says.  First of all, the figures the government puts out are based on surveys of those who might be employed rather than their employers. Many Russians choose not to admit they don’t have work.

Second, the official figures released on a regular basis are for unemployment of all Russians between 15 and 72, not just those of actual working age. Students among the youngest cohorts and those among the oldest are counted as employed. That boosts the employment figure and reduces unemployment at least officially.

            Third, fewer than one percent of Russians make use of the government’s employment centers.  The reason so few do is that “the people simply do not believe in these centers.” The amount of unemployment compensation is miserly, and the centers do little to find jobs but do require enormous amount of time from those who hope to get work through them.

            Fourth, the official figures do not include what many call hidden unemployment. That exists, Yardayeva says, “when one has a job registered officially but isn’t receiving any pay.  According to the most recent statistics on that, from 2015-2016, when official employment was above five percent, this form of unemployment stood at 18-20 percent.

            And fifth, the official unemployment numbers do not take into account the realities of self-employment. As many as 90 percent of 15 million Russians who claim to be self-employed are not receiving regular incomes and thus are more properly termed unemployed than employed, but the government figures do not reflect that.

            Thus, the best estimate of actual unemployment in Russia is 15 to 20 percent or about one Russian in six, Yardayeva says.  And there are many more just above this group who have poorly paid or irregularly paid jobs who live in fear of landing among them. Putin’s words don’t reflect any of these realities.

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