Although anti-crisis measures have produced clear results and unemployment has dropped, efforts must continue to create jobs and find work for the unemployed, Dmitry Medvedev said at the meeting. What is needed now is a transition from anti-crisis measures to long-term, systemic action to develop a civilised labour market.
Using the International Labour Organisation’s calculation methods, the number of unemployed in Russia fell to 5.4 million people at the start of 2011 (down from 6.2 million at the start of 2010). This brought the overall unemployment rate down to 7.2 percent. According to the Healthcare and Social Development Ministry, there were 1.6 million registered unemployed at the start of February.
The meeting continued the President’s series of events examining the employment situation and ways to get people back into work. Earlier this month, Mr Medvedev visited the Stroginsky Employment Centre in Moscow and held a meeting there on the labour market situation. The President was also briefed on the employment situation and the implementation of programmes to reduce unemployment by Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov.
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President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues,
Today, we will discuss the situation on the labour market, one of the most important issues on our national agenda. If you have been following the current political agenda, you will recall that I said recently that I would be giving this subject particular attention very soon.
I have already held several meetings on employment issues, including the meeting at one of Moscow’s job centres, in which current job-seekers also took part.
All of you here know that unemployment has dropped in Russia of late, but this does not mean that the Government and other organisations can sit back and relax now. We need to start thinking about the transition from anti-crisis to long-term measures and systemic action to ensure that we do not lose the results our difficult work during the crisis’ active phase produced.
I will not quote figures, for you all know the development of events and what the situation was like at the height of the crisis and afterwards. The figures show, in any case, that the Government at least succeeded in coping with the situation overall, but at the same time, we cannot forget that more than 5 million people in our country are still looking for work, and this too is a big number. Whatever the situation, the employment centres must do everything possible to help these people. People from all different sectors are here today, including people representing the agriculture sector, student organisations, and some of those currently looking for work. I want to hear from you about the key problems different groups of people face today.
As far as the ministry and agency heads and the employers go, their task is clear: they must establish a civilised labour market, develop demand, and provide incentives for retraining, and not just through state programmes, but through private programmes too. This depends completely on employers’ will and desire, and so it would be useful to hear from the employers too today. Of course, we shall also hear from the trade unions, which speak in the interests of all workers.
I remind you that in autumn 2008, we introduced support measures for businesses in the real sector of the economy, and it was probably this that helped us to get through the crisis with minimum losses, compared to the situation in a number of other countries at any rate. The main thing, probably, was that we managed to prevent mass layoffs, and as I said, our unemployment figures have returned practically to the pre-crisis level. Perhaps most important of all today, though, is that we cannot return to pre-crisis working methods, technology and principles. We need to do everything we can now to modernise our enterprises and develop high-tech production, as has been discussed at various different meetings. Such businesses are developing in the service sector now too and are creating what are generally high skilled and well-paid new jobs.
One other aspect is that the state-funded social support projects that fulfilled probably the most difficult mission during the active phase of the crisis created new jobs in small business too. We had no previous experience in these kinds of projects. I discussed this not so long ago with my colleagues in the Government and the regional governors. I was pleased and surprised to learn that we have succeeded in maintaining practically all the results these programmes gave small business, and almost all of the jobs and business activities these programmes supported continue today. Perhaps this is one of the main avenues of future development that we should consider. Of course, this sector is very important for many different regions, but it is especially vital for the single-industry towns, rural areas, remote parts of the country, and for areas with particularly serious unemployment problems, such as the North Caucasus.
Each of these regions must carry out clear programmes aimed at improving the investment climate and offering specific investment project support and job creation measures. The number and quality of these measures is one indication of how effectively the governor and the regional authorities in general are working.
I want to say a few words in particular about the situation in the single-industry towns. The government programme for creating jobs in new areas is currently being carried out in 35 such towns. All of these towns – and according to our classification, they number more than 300 – need to develop their own programmes. These programmes must ultimately help to keep jobs at and modernise the factories that are these towns’ main employers, while at the same time creating new jobs too. These programmes need to be realistic and take the region’s particular competitive advantages into account. Our regions are all very different, as you know. The governors have particular responsibility in this work, of course, as do the mayors of the towns in question. I want to hear from the Government today, and from the regions and single-industry towns represented here on what has been done so far and the results obtained.
I said last year on several occasions that it is essential to get private business into the single-industry towns. I want to hear from Vnesheconombank, as the Government’s partner in working with single-industry towns, on which programmes are already underway today, which projects are already receiving financing, and what the lending prospects look like for the immediate future. The Government should reflect too on state instruments that do not require direct budget financing, including the state guarantees that we have discussed quite often.
We also need to improve our labour laws. A large package of amendments to the Labour Code is currently in preparation. This work is a joint effort with the employers and trade unions taking part too. Once the drafting is completed, I hope that everyone, myself included, will have the chance to look through it and see what is being proposed.
Once again, concluding these opening remarks, I want to say that we need to put the emphasis above all on the investment climate and on modernising our industry. This is the only way to create a greater number of modern and well-paid jobs of the kind our people want, but this requires a lot more hard work too.
Instead of following the traditional procedure today, I propose that we give the floor first not to the ministers and government heads in general, who will speak later and perhaps make some summaries, but to those who represent some of the groups that are encountering particular problems on the labour market at the moment, and who represent the interest of the various players, including the regional heads.
I am not making anyone specifically responsible, but will let the press stay on so as to ensure that what you say reaches the public and everyone with an interest in this issue, and as I said, it is an issue that, sadly, still concerns a great number of people in our country.