Saturday, May 1, 2021

Kremlin’s Mishandling of 20 Million Contract Employees May Lead Them to Protest, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 29 – “A new class of the dissatisfied” is arising in Russia, the contract employees or self-employed who are discovering that their status may be helping businesses to profit by cutting their tax burdens but that the people in this status are going to be left with only the smallest of pensions or none at all, Yekaterina Lazareva says.

            The URA news agency journalist spoke with Sergey Khramov, the general inspector of the Union of Trade Unions in Russia about this. He says his organization has already received thousands of complaints from those businesses have forced off the payroll into the status of contractors (

            Businesses give such people a choice: either “accept the new conditions,” a higher salary but without benefits like vacations and medical insurance “or lose their jobs.” The higher salaries attract many to begin with, but the lack of basic social supports rapidly turns them against this system, one that has been promoted by the Kremlin since 2019.

            Other experts with whom Lazareva spoke, including Moscow analyst Mikhail Delyagin, economist Vasily Koltashov, and commentator Konstantin Kalachev, agree that this is a problem, although the last argues that the protests among the roughly 20 million of these people are likely to be social rather than political.

            They point out that firms benefit from the contractor system, regional governments aren’t suffering immensely from the lack of contributions from the self-employed, and the Kremlin has even made the number of such people “one of its criteria of the effectiveness of governors.” The more contract workers there are, the higher the governors’ ratings.

            Out of this mix of motives, the contract workers are likely to be the big losers; and as they recognize this, they are likely to take to the streets, adding their number to the protesters who are already there. 

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