Session on employment and migration in Belarus

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President of the Republic of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko gave an instruction to work out a system of measures to eradicate freeloading attitudes and vagrancy by 1 January 2015 at the session held on 20 October to discuss employment and migration in the country.

At the beginning of the session the head of state said that it is high time to discuss the current state of the Belarusian labor market, its development prospects taking into account the influence of demographic and migration processes.

At the present stage of the social and economic development Belarus strives to accomplish the same goals that the majority of neighboring countries try to accomplish, including the European Union. The preservation and multiplication of labor resources top the agenda. It is a matter of wellbeing of the present and future generations and the stability of the state, Aleksandr Lukashenko underlined.

The President remarked that Belarus has already secured certain results in increasing the birth rate. “But it is our reserve for the future. Now we have to use options to replenish the labor resources that will produce results today,” the head of state noted. However, he emphasized that we should be calmer about the birth rate increase as this process needs to take root and blossom.

Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that Belarus is facing a number of problems in employment and migration these days. In particular, the President mentioned the fact that employable Belarusians account for nearly 60% of the total number of residents and the figure has started falling. “Belarusians are getting older and we should bear it in mind. While in 2010 we had 2.7 employable citizens per pensioner, now the indicator is close to two,” the Belarusian leader stated. “It means that the situation on the labor market will get worse. The shortage of workforce will increase. The burden on the welfare system will rise, primarily pensions and healthcare,” he added.

Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that workforce is always in demand in Belarus. Blue-collar jobs account for 76% of the total demand for workers. It is primarily true for the production sector, civil engineering industry, and transport. At the same time individual enterprises employ an excessive number of workers, according to the President. “The practice indicates that we have no effective mechanism to redistribute workforce between regions and industries. The influence on the distribution of productive forces is weak. The majority of vacant positions are concentrated in major cities. People leave the countryside to work in cities,” the head of state remarked.

Apart fro that, the President said that many specialists, who are trained at the expense of the state budget, cannot find jobs. “Because the higher education system relies on yesterday’s requirements. It does not train those that the national economy really needs. It is surprising that the higher education system can rely on yesterday’s standards and train specialists to match yesterday’s requirements. It means that the system lacks any kind of orderliness and organization. If the education system has to train specialists to match today’s requirements, the system should get a clear and definite work order. It means there is not one,” the head of state said.

The President remarked that personnel are often trained without taking into account the improvement and modernization of the production sector. Many corporations cannot determine what specialists they will need even in the short term, stressed the head of state. The President said he wanted answers as to why things happen this way and proposals regarding how the negative practice can be changed.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also mentioned the fact that the number of Belarusian citizens working abroad is increasing. At the same time, people come to Belarus seeking employment opportunities. The number of people coming from Ukraine has been rising recently. “Certainly we will help such people. A lot has been said about it already. We will welcome everyone, who wants to live and work well. There are areas and enterprises in Belarus where workforce is in extremely short supply,” the President noted.

“However, one should bear in mind that the open policy meant to attract labor migrants does not always succeed as Europe’s example indicates,” the head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed: “If we do not want interethnic conflicts in our country, we should utilize Belarusian citizens in full instead of encouraging freeloading attitudes among our own and employing foreign workforce in so-called non-prestigious positions”.

“As far as I know, about 500,000 Belarusians are not involved in the economic activity of the country. Let us assume that 100,000 are home-makers and people working on their household plots. And what do the remaining 400,000 do? Who pays for them?” the head of state asked those present at the session.

The President also spoke about people in mandatory job placement who should compensate the government for childcare costs. “How do they work? You send them to work in the housing and public utilities sector. You do your job and withdraw, while housing and public utilities workers suffer and complain that such persons miss their work and they have to ask the police to bring them back. Why do we not do more? If a person is given a job and has to work, but does not do it, why do we not do anything about it? Why do we put in so much effort into them? We do not. We just pass them on to others and are happy about it, as the process is going on. But the process is no way going on,” Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked.

These and other scroungers take advantage of all the benefits the government offers, get free education, medical services, and subsidized utility services. After that they dare demand a decent salary from the government. “Let us change this welfare mentality. 400,000 people should be involved in the work. There should not be any idlers in the country. We need to make these people work and to stop distributing free benefits to those who do not work,” Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized.

The head of state appointed Head of the Belarus President Administration Andrei Kobyakov and State Secretary of the Security Council Alexander Mezhuyev in charge of working out suggestions regarding the matter and ordered to inform him about the work done by the end of the year.

The President reminded that at the beginning of the year he gave instructions to analyze the situation on the labor market and the factors that influence it. A dedicated taskforce has been formed and has come up with a number of proposals. Aleksandr Lukashenko said he would like to learn how the people, who are supposed to reimburse the money the state spends on educating and supporting their children, work and how the citizens, who are not part of the national economy, will get employed. The government has already prepared and discussed concrete measures. “I would like to learn whether these measures are effective and what results are expected,” the head of state stressed.

Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Tozik told the President about the current state of labor resources and proposals to optimize their structure.

In particular, he said that the government has started to ensure necessary mobility of the workforce. In this regard the government deems it necessary to limit the construction of housing with state subsidies and raise the construction of rented housing at affordable prices for families with many children and other categories of people.

According to the Vice Premier, in order to encourage people to work better it is essential to create economic stimuli, improve the social policy and specify national social standards, revise labor norms. Anatoly Tozik believes that these measures would help increase the nominal wage in the country by leveling its size with that in neighboring countries.

Apart from that, in order to engage non-workers in the economic activity and to create additional incentives for hard work, the government suggests increasing the minimal work record with the mandatory contributions to the social security fund from 10 to 15 years. Pensions are suggested to be calculated based on the past 20 years of the employment history. In the case of the absence of the required qualifying years, the government suggests increasing the age of social pension to 60 years for women and 65 years for men, or 65 years for both.

Anatoly Tozik suggests determining the amount of minimal benefits that will be available to those who do not pay an income tax and social security contributions.

The government believes that the work record should have a greater impact on the calculation of pensions. This pertains, first of all, to workers working low-paid jobs.

The Vice Premier also put forward a number of proposals regarding the change in the structure and quality of personnel training, improving the prestige of vocational training and coordinating the work of ministries and government agencies. These proposals will be submitted to the head of state at the beginning of November.

Anatoly Tozik believes that Belarus has enough labor force to meet economic needs. So the country does not need foreign workers, only individual groups of specialists.

“We need a result. How you will do it – it is your business. People working day and night should not provide for some scroungers!” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

Education Minister Sergei Maskevich informed the President about the plans to improve the training of highly-qualified specialists for the national economy.

Interior Minister of Belarus Igor Shunevich told the head of state about the migration situation and external labor migration trends in the country. The Minister suggested analyzing the demand for labor resources in the regions, determining the enterprises, which are ready to provide housing and salaries to workers, and accumulating the information in territorial employment assistance centers. In his opinion, it is necessary to revise plans of the oblast and district administrations regarding the distribution of the population taking into account the demographic situation and the economic one in the regions.

The Belarusian Interior Ministry has put forth the proposal to amend the Administrative Violations Code in order to introduce responsibility, including forced job placement, for citizens, who have no registered jobs.

Aleksandr Lukashenko supported the idea. “If you are willing to re-introduce the term ‘vagrancy’, go ahead. It will be more understandable for the people. We should not waste anything good that was created in the Soviet times, including the terms,” he said.

“You have to use any means that we have and know how to apply to make these people work! Measures must be taken by 1 January to make everyone work!” the President stressed.

Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out that homes have to be built where workforce is in short supply or where new jobs have to be created. “It is time to stop talking and start doing things!” the head of state emphasized.

The President remarked that he supported all the relevant proposals voiced by the government.

“Make all the decisions by 1 January, inform the society. Starting from 1 January they have to be implemented into practice,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. He tasked the Belarus President Administration with controlling the fulfillment of the instruction. The head of state added that the state budget cannot be used for these measures.