Is the Belarusian labour market in shock?

    Military operations in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia and Belarus have already qualitatively changed the labour market in Belarus. HR Kseniya Kruchinina predicts that April will become a critical month for many companies, and now it is almost impossible to protect oneself from job loss. Office Life talked to Kseniya about who is at risk in the first place and why we will soon see a new labour market both in Belarus and in the world.

    Kseniya Kruchinina immediately admits: she looks at the current situation with a great deal of pessimism, but at the same time she believes that most companies in matters of working with personnel have not yet realized the full depth of the crisis and the scale of the ongoing changes.

    – As it traditionally happens in almost the entire post-Soviet space, until the critical moment has come, many people live with the hope that nothing will happen, –  the expert says. – Now it’s the same: everyone sees global brands leaving and the way this is already partially affecting Belarusians, but no global actions are taken to work with personnel. True, I know cases when, according to the scheme already tried and tested in 2020, companies invite psychologists to work with the team and hold meetings to calm employees down.

    According to the expert, now businesses should honestly tell employees: if you have half of your current salary left, it will be good, this situation can last for many months – prepare your budgets and your families for this. And no one says that, unfortunately, many will soon run the risk of being losing work.

    – Many joke on social networks: they say, soon we will go to the countryside to plant potatoes. However, for many people, these jokes may become a reality this spring, and by the way, this option will not be the worst one, – Kseniya Kruchinina thinks.

    She believes that the current task of business is to prepare people for reality but not just say that everything will be fine.

    – In post-Soviet countries, they often say: we used to live under sanctions before, so, this time we will readjust again; but it seems to me that this is an illusion. It will no longer be the way it was before.

    True, there are those who immediately reacted to the start of the crisis: remember the mass relocation of IT specialists. According to Kseniya Kruchinina, those who have “anchors” in Belarus – children or elderly parents – now remain in the IT sector. Also, those who are either inexperienced in IT and not in demand by the European labour market, or those who do not know English at the proper level are those categories for whom it was difficult to find a job even in Belarus, so, it will be almost impossible to do it in the West.

    At the same time, there are no mass layoffs in our labour market right now.

    – Naturally, hiring has been frozen almost completely. They only hire specialists for key positions, who can already be bought cheaper than before, because they have moderated their salary appetites. And this is the right strategy for both employers and candidates, – the expert says.

    First of all, the additional staff who were recruited in the “fatty” years will be reduced – those who were hired to become “better and more efficient” in processes, business indicators, customer service speed or business, or, for example, were hired for business development or new projects.

    – Everyone who was hired with the words “let’s take a good specialist” will be fired sooner or later. And sooner rather than later.

    First of all, the company will reserve and retain the basic team that affects the business and without which the company cannot work – those who directly create the product and deliver it to the consumer. Everyone who “helped” the process to become better will be left out of work.

    It can be assumed that those who had local production here, which did not depend heavily on supplies from abroad, will be able to survive. Such companies will have a chance to try themselves on the neighboring market, and this may help retain some of the employees. But this is just a hypothesis. Most of the Belarusian business in one way or another used some share of Western components in production, so it is not yet possible to make forecasts.

    So far, the withdrawal of world brands from our market has not affected us the way it has affected our neighbours, however, if some companies suspend their activities, then not only their staff will suffer but also those enterprises that cooperated with them. Here we can sometimes refer to city-forming Belarusian enterprises, so the issue of employment for these people will be especially acute.

    – We need to understand that it will be almost impossible to leave Belarus for work, as before, the expert states. – All neighbours have their own problems, Poland and the Baltic States have already satisfied their own needs, especially in working positions, due to the first wave of migration of Belarusians and the current wave of migration from Ukraine.

    According to our expert, we should not be too optimistic about the news that global brands stop work while continuing to partially pay salaries to employees.

    – They act this way because this is the way the things are done in developed markets. When foreign companies realize that the situation is dragging on, besides, if the issue of the nationalization of such enterprises is raised, I think everything will change. I believe that as early as in April, many employees will be left without these minimum payments. Most likely, April will also become a critical month for the Belarusian labour market when everyone will gradually begin to realize that this will last long.

    According to Kseniya Kruchinina, almost nobody can protect themselves from dismissal now. Areas and businesses that are vital for people will work well: food, water, health; certain rise in agriculture is possible against the backdrop of the crisis.

    –  For the first time in 20 years, I see the employer’s market, when only the employer determines the salary; there can be several excellent candidates for one position and there is no more need to bargain with the applicant and rush to make a decision. And it will last like that at least until July – August 2022.

    And what will happen after? After, the companies that manage to cope with the crisis will establish new supply chains, consumers will gradually recover from the shock, however, we definitely cannot hope for a quick economic recovery, and we will not repeat the “fatty” years as soon as we would like.

    Here the expert’s advice to employees in the current situation.

    • They say that now you need to “freeze”. In no case! Do not expect to be fired: offer management ways out of the crisis. Someone can raise additional money (for example, find new customers), someone can come up with a new supply chain, and someone can find ways to reduce costs. Those who bring money will be appreciated.
    • If you realize you’ve been hired for a project or foe a certain field of work that could be discontinued, consider an alternate option and start looking for a job while there’s still some work in the country.
    • Do not be afraid to learn new professions. Just do not rush into testers – this is a decision of the past. At the same time, you need to understand that you will not find a job very quickly after training; however, the better you are prepared, the easier it will be for you to do it.
    • To those who are looking for a job right now: if you like the job and see opportunities in it, you need to agree to the minimum wage that you can bear with.