Targeted assistance


Belarus’ programme of targeted assistance could undergo some reform, with cashless housing subsidies (currently, overseen by communal services) being discussed alongside benefit payments for the under 3s. Specialists from the Labour and Social Protection Ministry have calculated that, from January–June 2009, those receiving targeted assistance fell in number to 108,000 — against 191,000 in the same period of the previous year. Social support is still in huge demand — especially in times of economic instability — but there is some scope for expansion.

Chance is not advance. In our modern times, it’s better to have a working landline phone rather than a mobile. Most people seem concerned about possible job loss, although Belarus aims to preserve employment figures. So far, the labour market is stable, with registered unemployment standing at 0.9 percent — one of the lowest figures in Europe. Since the start of the year, 167,000 people have addressed the employment services and 77,000 new jobs have been created. Almost 100,000 Belarusians have been employed and many have been relocated to new homes in rural areas. An additional 1,500 have received support in setting up entrepreneurial activity.

As of July 1st, 2009, 42,000 were registered unemployed — 2.3 percent less than in the same period of 2008. According to Belarus’ Deputy Labour and Social Protection Minister, Piotr Grushnik, the labour market still faces problems, despite falling unemployment (against April). From May–June, 2.8 percent of employed Belarusians had their hours reduced. As a result, the law has been changed to allow people to take other employment to make up the difference in their wages. New measures to assist jobseekers are being considered — with many being directed towards agro-ecotourism or craft activities.

Who can unload a storehouse? The January–June results show average salaries having risen by 17 percent countrywide (compared to the same period of 2008). However, inflation has ‘consumed’ most of this rise. Real income (reflecting prices) places this rise at just 2.1 percent. The Government notes that, in early 2009, salaries were liberalised — to minimise the consequences of the global economic crisis. Employers have been able to give bonuses to staff for sales (especially those involving moving warehouse stock and bringing in foreign income). Work is still underway in this direction.

All ages involved. The birth rate has been growing in Belarus for several years. Between January and June, 53,579 were born — 2,426 more than last year. This trend is likely to have been influenced by the national demographic security programme, which gives benefits to families. However, the birth of a child results in a temporary salary fall by one of the parents — being a restrictive factor. Measures aimed at socially supporting families are vital. In the near future, the Labour and Social Protection Ministry is to propose increased monthly allowances for children under three. The decision is likely to be made this year.

By late 2009, pensions are to increase as well — most probably, in November. The Deputy Labour and Social Protection Minister, Valentina Koroleva, notes that pension legislation is to be changed, with pensions likely to be based on payments made during each worker’s lifetime; a corresponding draft law is to be ready by the end of the year. The Ministry is also considering distributing the obligatory insurance burden between employer and employee. Ms. Korolova notes that this would reduce economic ‘pressure’ on employers and raise Belarus’ ratings as an attractive business environment.

[i]By Inna Chernyshova[/i]
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