Although there have been no massive job cuts in Belarus this year, hidden unemployment is a cause for concern, Leanid Kozik, chairman of the pro-government Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus (FTUB), said at a board meeting in Minsk on December 9.
There has been a sharp rise in the number of underemployed people, including those who have been put by their employers on "forced leave," Mr. Kozik said.
There were 327,000 underemployed people in Belarus in the first 10 months of 2009, or 4.7 times more than in the same period of 2008, he said.
The number of employees who were committed to a shorter work week or short work hours increased 3.9 times year-on-year in the first 10 months to 65,300, Mr. Kozik said.
In October, 29,300 people were put on "forced leave," including 13,400 on unpaid leave, he said. Companies under the control of the industry ministry reported the heaviest losses of man-days, Mr. Kozik said.
The situation has been stabilizing since September, but this can hardly justify optimism, he said. Even though the official unemployment rate is 0.9 percent of the economically active population, the actual rate is higher, as people are not interested enough in becoming officially registered as unemployed, Mr. Kozik said.
The unemployment allowance is merely 43,000 rubels ($15), he explained. The government should raise it because jobless people in Belarus have to live on $0.5 a day, he said.
According to the United Nations, the unemployment allowance in some of the poorest countries is $1 a day, he noted. The FTUB should push for the allowance to be increased to equal the Subsistence Minimum Budget, Mr. Kozik said.
The average per-capita Subsistence Minimum Budget is 250,070 rubels, or $88, at present.