April 29 – May 5, 2024
The ruling elite

Unveiling the re-Sovietisation of the labour market: Serfdom, profiteers, and freeloaders

The situation has not changed

The ruling class is seeking to address the personnel shortage in the public sector through directive methods and Soviet-style approaches. Among the main measures being considered are an increase in the duration of compulsory postgraduate work assignments and the introduction of significant fines in case of refusal to complete them. The government is planning to significantly reduce the proportion of self-employed individuals in the labour market. The ongoing challenge of integrating “freeloaders” into the workforce remains.

Unveiling the re-Sovietisation of the labour market: Serfdom, profiteers, and freeloaders

The manpower shortage in the labour market is becoming increasingly acute. Since 2020, the number of people in employment in Belarus has been down by over 160,000 people.

To secure personnel in the field after graduation, the authorities are developing additional punitive and coercive measures.

The head of the Ministry of Education, Andrei Ivanets, proposes to increase the amount of fines for young professionals who refuse to complete postgraduate work assignments. Officials are also considering extending the duration of such assignments in areas where staff shortages are most acute. In addition, the idea of compulsory postgraduate work assignments for fee-paying graduates is being actively pushed for public acceptance. 

In the short and medium term, these measures may have a partial impact on alleviating the manpower shortage. On the other hand, they will increase youth emigration to Russia and European countries. 

In addition, the ruling class expects a reduction in the number of workers in the private sector of the economy. The authorities are counting on the subsequent influx of human resources into the public sector. Throughout Lukashenko’s rule, he was suspicious of businessmen. During a visit to Kastsiukovichy, the politician commented on the measures taken against “profiteers” in the spirit of Soviet ideology. He stated, “Everyone has become self-employed, there are no workers any more”.

Following the active support of small and medium-sized businesses for the 2020 democratic uprising, the ruling class has introduced additional restrictions for this sector. The latest legislative changes are designed to significantly reduce the number of individual entrepreneurs in the economy.

The ruling class has no plans to stop repression and political purges despite the manpower shortages. In addition to education, the re-Sovietisation process also affected the public sector, with an increase in the indoctrination of workers.

The campaign to combat “freeloaders” who benefit from the state without contributing to it continues. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is conducting a trial to assess the public acceptability of the Soviet practice of criminal prosecution for social parasitism.

In this way, the ruling class is continuing to “tighten the screws” on the labour market with pre-emptive purges and repression.

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Once a week, in coordination with a group of prominent Belarusian analysts, we provide analytical commentaries on the most topical and relevant issues, including the behind-the-scenes processes occurring in Belarus. These commentaries are available in Belarusian, Russian, and English.

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