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Analysis & Opinion
26.10.09 Will Work For Paychecks
By Svetlana Kononova

Despite the heavy blow that the recent economic downturn has dealt to Russia’s job market, the latest signs are those of recovery, analysts say. The number of available vacancies is slowly growing, and salaries in some segments of the job market are on the rise.

In September, data from the biggest Russian job portal HeadHunter showed an 11 percent increase in the number of vacancies. The most dramatic changes have taken place in the art, media, sports and science industries. The number of vacancies in art and media has grown by 29 percent, in sports – by 26 percent, and in science and education by 18 percent. But in spite of this, there are still many more candidates than here are vacancies. According to HeadHunter, some 54 candidates compete for each vacancy.

“The job market became a ‘sellers’ market’ at the time of the credit crunch,” said Olga Ovchinnikova of the Ancor Recruitment Agency. “Many companies have put new projects on hold and laid off some of their employees. Competition on the job market has gotten fiercer. Thus, many highly skilled professionals are now willing to accept a job that pays 30 to 50 percent less than it did before the crisis.”

However, a recent survey by the recruitment agency Ancor revealed that the number of vacancies has grown by ten to 15 percent every month since August. The fastest growing industries appear to be medicine and pharmaceuticals: because of a shortage of qualified personnel, salaries in these fields have been increasing even during the economic crisis. Sales managers and production managers are also in high demand. On the other hand, Ancor’s data shows that architects, construction workers, civil engineers, and marketing and advertisement managers are still going through hard times. Credit managers and gambling industry professionals are presently the least sought-after, according to the Unity recruitment agency.

Surprisingly, the credit crunch has had a positive impact on some of Russia’s top managers. “Top managers’ salaries have risen dramatically during the crisis,” said Olga Simonova, a top personnel recruiter at Unity. “The starting salary for a top manager is still 90,000 rubles ($3,000) per month. But the upper margin has risen twofold from 150,000 ($5,000) to 300,000 ($10,000) rubles per month.” “Business owners are betting on highly-qualified top managers to make their businesses more efficient and take them to a new, post-credit crunch level,” said Simonova.

And it seems that the top managers fully appreciate the value of their skills and experience. “Most companies simply can’t afford to hire me,” wrote one manager who wished to remain anonymous in his cover letter on HeadHunter. “Therefore I am interested in serious job offers only. I am interested in working for companies that seek motivated top managers, and do not think that a monthly salary of $10,000 is too high for a qualified professional like me.”

But the average company employee can ill-afford such confidence. Recent surveys conducted by HeadHunter show that Russians are not inclined to insist on their rights being respected at work. For example, 83 percent of women and 76 percent of men continue coming to office when sick. Ten percent of women and 13 percent of men work from home when ill, and only ten percent of women and 19 percent of men can afford to take days off to recover from an illness.

Moreover, 80 percent of office workers in Russia put in overtime, according to HeadHunter’s recent poll. Sixty-one percent of respondents said that they work overtime at least once a week, and 19 percent do so one to three times each month. Ninety one percent of respondents complained that employers do not pay extra for overtime.
Yet this phenomenon can hardly be explained by fear of losing one’s job. “Our clients are not bothered by work-related issues too much,” said Elena Blinnikova, a spokesperson for the Psygrad Psychological Aid Center, an NGO. She claims that Russians rarely seek psychological help for coping with unemployment in times of crisis. “The average Russian worries much more about his relationship with a spouse, a lover or a child, than about work issues,” Blinnikova added.

Even if you’ve lost your job, there is still a chance to get free training at the government employment service. “Many people who are registered as unemployed with our service are interested in getting training,” said Leonid Berres, a spokesperson for the Moscow Work and Employment Agency. The agency has already trained some 6,000 people in 2009, and 8,000 more will be trained by the end of the year. Job seekers can choose a new occupation from a list of 60 professions that are presently in demand in Moscow, and most of them, such as hairstylist, nurse, carpenter and tailor, do not require a college degree.

However, former office workers are not too keen on blue-collar work even if they take a long time to find the same kind of job they lost. There are currently about 184,000 open vacancies at the Moscow Work and Employment Agency, while the number of those who have registered as unemployed is just a third of that. Unemployment is worst for those aged 45 to 54.

However, most experts agree: the Russian job market is on its way to recovery. “Companies have beaten the credit crunch and need high-skilled workers now,” said Ovchinnikova. “Based on our research, we can predict a growth in demand.”
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