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Russian unemployed: features of image

русская версия

Опубликовано на портале: 14-09-2011
Мир России. 1998.  Т. 7. № 1-2. С. 93-146. 
Тематические разделы:
The results of research have show that different types of unemployment co-exist in Russia at present, and in principle these demand a variety of administrative solutions to improve employment - all the more so because the different types interact differently within each region. The main reasons for the existence of different types of unemployment are; 1) the restructuring of industry; 2) cuts in budget funding to a number of sectors, particularly culture, education and science; 3) changes in demands on employees in the transition to a competitive economy, especially in those sectors where staff are in direct contact with clients - trade, the service sector, municipal services and utilities. In these sectors, as the market system has developed, staff have been replaced on a massive scale; 4) The formation of a labour market, in place of the labour shortages of a planned economy.A real labour market gives people a certain degree of 'training* as independent actors on that market - an idea of the approximate value of their labour, the habit of jobseeking, the ability to present themselves correctly at meeting the employer's requirements, appropriate behavior in the case of unemployment, etc. In Russia, however, where over the course of seventy years there was no labour market and for sixty years, no unemployment, the population has in practice totally lost these habits. Unemployment in these conditions frequently appears to be not so much the consequence of an objective absence of jobs as the consequence of people not being psychologically prepared to change the type of employment that predominates in a market economy: these are, as it were, systemic factors which have filtered down to the "personality" level.In each of the groups that are distinguished by their type of employment, there is a fairly large stable core which is preserved and forms "persistent" or "long-term" unemployment or insecure employment. This core has fairly marked specific socio-demographic or other characteristics, including way of life and circle of social contacts. Random member of the group who do not correspond to its particular typical characteristics do not, as a rule, stay long within it. As a result, although the renewal of the composition of groups is continuous, a section of the new members fairly quickly leaves the group just as another section, to a large extent corresponding to the social type characteristic of the group in question, "gets stuck" in it. On this level, we can talk about the formation of at least two -up to now - fairly stable strata in the new social structure of Russia: the long-term unemployed and the insecurely employed. Long membership of a particular employment crisis group on the one hand increases the probability that the person will remain in this group because he gets used to a particular way of life and adapts to it, and on the other hand is in itself a consequence of particular personal characteristics.Among these particular personal characteristics the most important are the respondent's willingness to work and the level of his job aspirations. Most respondents from the registered unemployed and the insecurely employed groups were not interested in getting a permanent job. Aspirations in relation to work, for the main body of respondents and especially for the unemployed, were patently excessive given the current Russian labour market situation. Typical of the long-term unemployed were inadequate assessments of the situation in Russia, of their own prospects, of methods of realizing their interests, of the needs of employers in relation to employees and of the value of their own labour, as well as displaying lack of flexibility (rigidity) of the psyche. The nature of the aspirations of the Russian unemployed in relation to work and their perception of restrictions on finding it differed significantly from analogous indicators for the unemployed in countries with a long-established labour markets. The nature of these differences demonstrated their perception of unemployment above all as an absence of the necessary means for living, and not a qualitatively different social status.The predominance of women with specialized secondary or higher education stood out as a specific feature of the long-term unemployed group. Members of this group were generally in the 41 to 60 age cohort. Another particular and typical aspect of the group was found to be its members' previous employment - those who were "stuck" in the long-term unemployed group were not so often employees of large industrial enterprises or institutions as of small businesses in trade or catering. Their circle of social contacts was typically fiist and foremost relations and neighbors, and on the level of general social well-being they are typically pessimistic, lost, and feel that they are unable to manage their own lives. Overall, the material circumstances of this group are worse than others, although there are members of it at all levels of welfare. The least well-off long-term unemployed are the "old poor" - one-parent families with children under 18 and the families of disabled people. Among the badly-off and the averagely well-off, the so-called "new poor" predominate. For those who are in the well-off or prosperous strata, unemployment is generally only a cloak for their real work activity, which they are usually conducting in the shadow economy. Analysis of the real circumstances of the households of the long-term unemployed enabled certain social types of respondents to be identified, which correlated strictly with their employment status. These types were: heads of one-parent families with small children; single people of pre-pension age, often in poor health; married women with children of pre-school age; middle-aged and elderly married women either from families without dependants where the husband worked, or from large families (4-5 members or more) where several members worked.Typical particular features of the long-term insecurely employed group are the broad representation of men, its relative middle age, its high skills level, and its long service at the enterprise - which was as a rule large or medium-sized and in the area of science, scientific services, education and industry (heavy industry or the defense industry). In other sectors, insecure employment leads to fairly rapid change of job. From the point of view of the circle of social contacts, typical particular features of this group were the very high importance of friends at work and friends in general, as well as the high importance of getting on well with workmates among the main job requirements. Among values, as with the long-term unemployed, the great importance of the level of interest inherent in a job was a specific factor. Most employees in insecure employment were family people with grown-up children.The core of the groups of long-term unemployed and those who had been insecurely employed for a long time formed a very distinctive group, distinguished by its fatalism and by a conviction that nothing depended on them. Its members, who had belonged to the most affluent stratum of society before the reforms, had chosen a way of life for themselves where their circle of permanent social contact was limited to neighbors and relations, among whom they chose above all to maintain social contact with people who were also not working. In practice, they were not seeking work, and the respondents themselves explained this by the difficulties of their situation. Dependent tendencies and expectations of paternalism were widespread. In the current economic conditions in Russia, the position of this group is deteriorating, relatively speaking, which allows its members to consider that those around them (from the state to their friends) are obliged to maintain or at least help them. In most cases, they have actually been successful in finding a source of means of subsistence apart from wages, although the number of them who - according to objective reasons - can count on help from elsewhere (large and one-parent families or disabled people) is very small in the composition of the group and does not exceed the indicator for the sample as a whole. Members of this group are not willing to reduce their excessive requirements in relation to work.So, the spectrum of possible actions for someone in contemporary Russia are laid down by the objective situation. But for most of the population, even in relatively depressed large cities, the spectrum of possibilities is fairly broad, although for most of the population these opportunities do not correspond to their own wishes. Within the limits of this spectrum of actions, a person is free to choose, and in doing so he is completely governed by rational considerations. These considerations are far from always subject to the logic of economic expediency, and are as diverse and many-sided as are people themselves. For some people, preserving status is more important than material prosperity; for others, the most important thing is family and children; for a third group -their own health; while the members of a fourth group do not want to leave their favorite occupation even though there is no demand for it after economic restructuring - and so on.Thus, systemic factors appear as a framework, a restricting device, a social imperative that the economy demands of the population. Personality factors determine a person's ability to conform to this imperative and correspondingly to use this ability to occupy a defined place in the new Russia. They do not exist separately from one another. Perhaps this freedom of choice and the right to this freedom also explain the amazingly long-suffering nature of Russians during the course of the experiment that fate has been conducting on them for the last few years, and which is so agonizing for most of them.
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