Belarus, a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, is known for its Stalinist architecture, grand fortifications, and primeval forests. In the modern capital, Minsk, the monumental KGB Headquarters loom over Independence Square, while the Museum of the Great Patriotic War commemorates the country’s role in WWII. The capital is also home to many churches, including the neo-Romanesque Church of Saints Simon and Helena.
Area: 207,600 km2 Population: 9,689,800
Dialing Code: 375 Currency: Belarusian Ruble (BYR)
Minimum Wage: 2,100,100 Belarusian rubles per month
Languages: Belarusian, Russian
Main Industries: Engineering, Machine Tools, Agricultural Equipment, Fertilizer, Chemicals, Defense-Related Products, Motor Vehicles, Textiles, Threads
Devastation during World War II nearly wiped out agriculture and industry in the Belorussian S.S.R., and the intensive postwar drive to restore the economy resulted in a large industrial sector that depended on the other Soviet republics, particularly Russia, for energy and raw materials.
The dissolution of the Soviet Union not only dramatically increased the cost of those raw materials but also reduced the traditional market for Belarusian manufactured goods. As a result, production decreased in Belarus during the early 1990s. Moreover, the movement toward a market economy in Belarus was slower than that of other former Soviet republics, with only a small percentage of state-run industry and agriculture privatized in the years following independence. Largely in response to this economic upheaval, Belarus sought closer economic ties with Russia.
In the early 21st century Russia remained a major trading partner, although relations between the two countries had become tense as a result of disputes over the price of imported gas and oil. Meanwhile, Belarus experienced substantial increases in its gross domestic product (GDP) as well as growing trade with the European Union. The country was hit hard, however, by the global recession that began in 2008. Manufacturing, particularly in the automotive industry, declined, and in 2009 the national currency was devalued.
A large majority of the Belarusian labor force is employed in either services or mining and manufacturing. Belarus has one of the highest percentages of women in the workforce of any country, and women occupy key roles in the education, health care, communications, manufacturing, and agricultural sectors. Most employees in Belarus are members of a trade union. There are dozens of trade unions, and most are subordinated to the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus, the body that oversees the unions.
According to data, over 4 years ago over half (53%) of Belarusians went to work in Russia and only 8% to Poland. Last year, these proportions almost leveled off. In Russia, there is still a crisis and lack of jobs. Poland is trying to attract professionals from nearby countries, creating favorable conditions. That is why many Belarusians would like to work in this country. Even more interesting are the preferences of the Belarusians’ for the country to go to work. Most – more than 12 percent say they would like to work in Poland, 9 percent in Russia and over 8 percent in Germany.
In recent years, the citizens of Belarus are increasingly going abroad to work for a living. At the same time, the direction of labor migration of Belarusians is gradually being reoriented from Russia to Poland.
According to state statistics, more than half a million Belarusians, or about 6% of the population, are below the poverty line. Moreover, the trend is on the rise, which is caused by the gradual deterioration of the economic situation in the republic. According to experts, the labor market in Belarus is noticeably declining, problems with finding high-paying jobs are especially noticeable.
Unlike the Ukrainians, the Belarusians, until recently, went to work almost exclusively in Russia, while very and very few went to European countries. According to estimates, at least 300,000 Belarusian citizens work in the Russian Federation. However, due to the ongoing recession in Russia in spite of official statements, recently Belarusians began to show more and more interest in the Western direction and, above all, in Poland.
In the first six months of 2018, Polish employers filed with the registration authorities almost 33 thousand applications for permission to employ Belarusian citizens, which is 37% more than in the same period of 2017. Taking into account the opposite trends in the Polish and Russian economies, as well as higher wages in Poland than in the Russian Federation, experts predict that in the coming years, the flow of Belarusians going to work in the western, not eastern direction, will grow rapidly.