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Much Russian unemployment remains hidden

By Daniel SneiderMoscow / March 9, 1994



GALINA, an English teacher in Moscow, finds herself the sole breadwinner in her family. Her husband, laid off from an aircraft industry plant two months ago, sits around the house with little to do but to commiserate with friends who have also lost jobs.

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But Galina's husband does not appear on the official rolls of Russia's unemployed. Rather, he is on ``compulsory leave,'' a term that means technically he may still return to the factory when - and if - there is work again.

This is not an effort to conceal unemployment but is the result of a lack of a real social services system. Most services, from pensions to day care, are provided by a company, not from local or federal government. So workers are desperate to keep workplace ties.

As a result, much of Russia's real unemployment has remained hidden. The official unemployment rate is about 1.1 percent of the labor force, or around 835,000 people. But both Russian officials and a recent study by the International Labor Organization put unemployment at 10 percent or more.

According to Labor Minister Gennady Melikian, at the end of 1993 7.8 million people, or 10.4 percent of the labor force, were unemployed, looking for work, or working short weeks. Other estimates put unemployment at 10 million people.

The Federal Employment Service predicts that large-scale bankruptcies will add 6 million to 10 million to Russia's real unemployed.