What is happening in the labour market in Belarus

    More and more labour migrants in the country are dissatisfied with the level of income at home.

    According to official data, the number of people who quit in Belarusian organizations in 2021 exceeds the number of those who found a job. According to the National Statistical Committee, in January – July of this year – excluding small businesses – Belarusian enterprises hired more than 361 thousand people, and over the same period more than 411 thousand were fired.

    Even in 2020, which is considered to be a crisis year due to the pandemic and the post-election situation in the country, there were more people employed in Belarus. At the same time, now many vacancies remain to be not in demand for a long time.

    Shortage of medical staff

    The situation in the medical field looks indicative. In the job bank of the state employment service in the Brest region, as of September 1, there were more than 500 offers for doctors and almost the same for nurses and paramedics.

    According to the head of the health department of the Brest Regional Executive Committee Viktor Mikhalovsky, the region lacks doctors of sub-specialisations – ophthalmologists, otolaryngologists, oncologists, infectious disease specialists, surgeons. The most acute is the shortage of stomatologists – with the need for one hundred specialists, only ten are distributed to the Brest region.

    Medical officials do not associate the shortage of personnel in this area with the level of wages, believing that it is fully consistent with the current economic situation in the country. However, not all medical professionals agree with this opinion.

    Doctors are not satisfied with the wage level

    Ekaterina works in one of the children’s polyclinics in Brest, she says that now many doctors working full-time seldom earn more than 1,000 Belarusian rubles. “To get more, you have to either take an additional load, or earn extra money in private medical centers – but not everyone succeeds to do so”, says Ekaterina.

    She believes that this is why her colleagues begin to look for employment options abroad, while about 90 doctors are currently required in Brest. “My friends most often choose neighboring Poland: even for a start, a doctor there can earn three times more than in Belarus, and further everything depends on the level of qualifications”, Ekaterina clarifies. She herself has no plans to go abroad for family reasons, however, she does not exclude that she will take this step in the future if the situation in Belarusian medicine worsens.

    Leave and not return

    Representatives of other professions are increasingly thinking about the prospects of employment outside Belarus, among which drivers, builders and highly qualified workers stand out. A resident of Brest, Evgeny, has the specialty of an electric and gas welder, but in recent years he worked in his hometown as a minibus taxi driver, because they paid more there. In the autumn of 2020, Evgeny got a job offer in his main specialty in a private company in the Lithuanian city of Mažeikiai and now he does not regret anything.

    “I now earn much more than at home, although by Belarusian standards I was also considered a highly paid worker in Brest,” says Evgeny. At the same time, he added that he had never been interested in politics before and rarely even went to elections.

    However, after having been on vacation in Belarus and having seen the situation, he admits that before he could have never even imagined that such things would have happened in the country: “The atmosphere of fear and uncertainty, lack of prospects”. If earlier, Evgeny says, he intended to return to his homeland after some time, now he is seriously considering the relocation of his family to Lithuania.

    What labour migration is fraught with?

    Experts also draw attention to what the staff drain from Belarus threatens due to the political crisis and economic uncertainty due to the sanctions imposed by the West. According to economist Andrei Levko, by the end of 2021 Belarus may fall to the last place in Europe in terms of income. “The average salary of a Belarusian five years ago significantly exceeded similar indicators in Ukraine and Moldova, but now these countries are almost equal to us in terms of income, and the rest of Belarus’s neighbors have gone far ahead,” says Levko.

    According to him, few people in the country trust the official statistics, which declares an average salary of 1,400 Belarusian rubles (about 470 Euros). In fact, in many district cities and in rural areas, even half this income is considered to be decent earnings today. Even in the pre-sanction times, the situation in the Belarusian economy was assessed by experts rather restrainedly against the background of the lack of reforms and the predominance of state-owned enterprises, many of which generate losses and rely on assistance from the budget.

    As for now, not only political repressions but also tightening the screws in business, together with the destruction of private initiative, can, in the opinion of observers, become an additional motivation for labour migration. This will only aggravate the situation both in the real sector of economy and in the public sector where there are still enough problems.


    Based on the materials of DW