Staunton, June 1 – Russian government propagandists and many ordinary Russians are celebrating the fact that in Russia today, official unemployment for the country as a whole has fallen to the record low of 3.2 percent. But Russian experts say that this is hardly a cause for celebration because it reflects both problems now and more problems in the future.
Summing up their views, Yekaterina Mereminskaya of the Important Stories portal says the latest figure is “not an achievement but a symptom of a serious illness,” one leading to production bottlenecks and strikes and setting the stage for inflation while blocking growth (istories.media/opinions/2023/06/30/ne-khvataet-ruk-pochemu-rekordno-nizkaya-bezrabotitsa-eto-na-samom-dele-problema/).
From the point of view of the Kremlin, low unemployment is preferable to high rates because the latter are “fraught with social problems and the violation of the pre-war social contact in which ‘we [the regime] give you an acceptable level of life and you don’t get involved in politics.”
Thus, the Kremlin does all it can to block rises in unemployment but its efforts don’t solve the problems low rates cause but only mask them because workers are sent on unpaid leave or see their hours reduced all so no one has to see that the actual numbers of people without work have gone up.
Demography has been making Russia’s situation worse as the generation coming into the workforce now is much smaller than the one that entered earlier, but “the war has worsened the situation. Some people have left, others have been mobilized, and the influx of migrants from other countries has been replaced by an outflow.”
As a result, Russia doesn’t have enough workers and unemployment has fallen. In some places, it has reached a crisis; but in others, unemployment is still high and a problem in and of itself. Thus, the overall figure is like the average temperature in a hospital – not a good guide for a policy based on the principle that one size fits all.
Experts say, Mereminskaya continues, that the impact of the war is still less than the underlying demographic trends; and they suggest that as a result, regardless of the outcome of the conflict, the problems low unemployment generate are going to be with Russia long into the future.