“The current economic crisis is in many ways different from the 2008 economic crisis.” People are not being laid off “en masse”. Instead, Dmitry Remezov writes:
“Many [employers] prefer to cut wages or send employees on unpaid leave. They have also started to increase the delay of salaries. Therefore a sharp surge in registered unemployment has not occurred, but there has become an enormous reservoir of hidden unemployment.”
In Primorye, for example, thousands of workers are owed hundreds of millions of rubles, though officially the unemployment rate sits at 5.9%.
One indicator of how bad the situation is in Russia’s Far East is that since the beginning of 2016, approximately 4000 people attempted to migrate to South Korea to work without visas, but were turned away. It is unclear how many tried and succeeded.
“The Russian Foreign Ministry called the situation in Vladivostok “appalling” and compared it to the 1990s, when thousands of Primorye residents also sought salvation from lack of money in South Korea.”
On the opposite side of the country, in Kaliningrad, wages fell and hidden unemployment increased due to the region’s loss of its status as a “special economic zone”.
According to a local trade union leader:
“Enterprises have cut working hours, people were more likely to be sent on unpaid leave. This is especially noticeable in the private sphere. But the general crisis also affected public sector workers: they also started curtailing wages and earning capacity. In general, people are living worse.”
He said that the reason there has been little “social unrest” is due to three factors:
- “…that job cuts took place progressively”;
- “the salary cuts were small”; and
- “part of the dismissed workers managed to find another job with roughly the same level of pay.”
“Employers curtailed production…. Therefore, workers gradually changed workplaces. And the salaries at the enterprises in the Kaliningrad region are small. Even at “Avtotor” [the local automobile manufacturing company] which imagines itself a leader of regional industry, the wages of mechanics and assemblers are often less than the average for the industry. Therefore it was not difficult for people to get another job with the same “not exorbitant” salaries,” he said.
“The crisis has hit the economy of the Russian regions in varying degrees.” In Kaluga, for example, the authorities shut down the central market.
“According to Rosstat, the unemployment rate in Kaluga is 4%, which is higher than the average for the Central Federal District (3.4%). Three hundred workers from the market who had to join the army of the unemployed, came to the rally.”
Of course, the places with the highest unemployment rate are in the North Caucasus Federal District [Chechnya, Daghestan, Ingushetia, etc.]. “As a whole, the unemployment rate in the district was 10.7%. The leaders are Ingushetia (29.7%) and Karachevo-Cherkessia (16%).”
“The high level of corruption and the outflow of the qualified workforce leads to higher unemployment in many Russian regions,” said State Duma deputy and vice-president of the Confederation of Labor of Russia, Oleg Shein. “And the North Caucasus Federal District has been hit the hardest by these social plagues.”
And it is driving local investment away, Shein continues. Not only will outsiders not want to invest there, but neither will local businesses seek to expand in the region, but look outside of it.
“Another factor undermining economic development is the departure of most of the skilled working population. This factor too has hit the regions of the North Caucasus Federal District, guaranteeing economic depression.”
“There was a serious “emigration” of ethnic Russians and Ukrainians from the North Caucasus which peaked in the 1990s. This departure was an additional blow to the local economy. And agriculture cannot be the basis of the national economy in the 21st century. It is, indeed, the product that provides the security of the country, but it does not create a high added value.” said Oleg Shein.
In Rostov the general director of a coal company was arrested and charged under several articles of Russia’s Criminal Code. The company itself is undergoing bankruptcy proceedings. The miners have not been paid and have been holding protests. “The total amount of the debt to the miners was 340 million rubles.” 2300 employees have been affected by the ongoing problems. “Many could not find new jobs locally and have left the region to work in other cities.”
“The leader of the protests said he believes regional authorities and law enforcement agencies are responsible for the current crisis…. The government has long turned a blind eye to the violations of the company.”
And in Tolyatti the automobile component manufacturer AvtoVAZ Aggregate owes 1500 employees back pay.
“The company was declared bankrupt in August and the top managers of the company were involved in criminal cases. According to the prosecutor’s office, the debt amounted to almost 53 million roubles as of 1 November.”
The head of the trade union at Tolyatti noted that over 40% of the shares of “AvtoVAZ” are owned by a company registered in the British Virgin Islands. “The reason for not paying workers is that there is no money. The court bailiff could not find the account of director Viktor Kozlov. We understand that the money went offshore. Perhaps in the near future this will be the case for many companies: no money, because they go offshore to violin and cello [a reference to the Rodulgin story and the Panama Papers.]”
The situation where people are formally employed, but not paid, has become one of the signs of the current crisis.