Labor Force

Belarus Table of Contents

The private sector attracted a growing portion of the labor force in 1994, but cooperatives and the state sector continued to account for the bulk of official employment in Belarus. The labor force numbered 4.8 million persons in 1994, or 48 percent of the total population.

A principal reason for Belarus's low official unemployment rate in 1994 (2.2 percent by the end of that year) was underemployment, which had been true during the Soviet era as well (thus keeping down the Soviet unemployment rate). Rather than lay off employees, enterprises often shortened work hours, reduced wages, and even forced employees to take leave without pay instead. Agreements signed by enterprises, labor unions, and the government in 1993 and 1994 called for avoiding declines in output and employment; in return for keeping the same level of employment, labor unions mainly refrained from industrial disruptions. At a time when the cost of living was rising dramatically, the social benefits provided by enterprises also acted as a disincentive for voluntary separations: a low-paying job that provided access to clinics, day care, and inexpensive housing was better than cash unemployment benefits alone.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress