Fear of Change

A glimpse into Belarus? economy and the Belarusian reluctance to change

Belarusians are economically very cautious and conservative. In a society that is built upon job security, the perspective of unemployment seems terrifying. Moreover, the Belarusian society has little experience with unemployment and no infrastructure for dealing with it. Still, a lot of people are suffering from unemployment. They have been fired by the factories and institutions they once used to work for. And many more people are scared of becoming unemployed.

In a lot of conversations I have been told numberless times that people would rather settle for low wages and miserable living standards ? and continue to complain about these shortcomings ? than quitting their jobs and taking the chance of moving to a private enterprise with an uncertain future. When you talk to people everybody tells you about the necessity for change in Belarus. But once they are directly concerned themselves, things seem to be different. Why?

Everybody usually says that we need radical reforms in the economy and in our agricultural sector. But when such a reform is actually being discussed (for example cutting the staff in a large enterprise) people get very upset. They say: ?You cannot give jobs only by evaluating the criteria of their efficiency. You have to balance efficiency and social security. You cannot fire a person in his fifties with no job prospects or a woman with two children .?

Such possibilities for a stable kind of employment are mostly offered by the Belarusian state enterprises. These jobs are rather poorly paid. Other kinds of jobs are accessible only by ?backstairs influence? or a bribe. This bribe is about $ 500 for a job in a medical institution, $ 200 for a job in the educational establishments, $ 300 for being employed in the court, $ 1000 for a job in the army, $ 1500 for working in the customs office and $ 300 for a job in the bank.

New jobs are of course developing in Belarus. Yet, the process of creating small private enterprises is progressing very slowly. This sector of the economy is a playground mostly for young people. These young people have not succeeded in finding a job after graduation in accordance with their professional degree. Now, they have to try something different. All in all, this is still a very small minority of risk-taking people. And even most of the young people would rather reject a higher paid job in the private sector than taking it and living with the risk of its failure.

Risk and uncertainty are the two things that most young Belarusians usually try to avoid. Paradoxically, these fears lead to wish of leaving the country. Most young Belorusians desperately want to leave. They are dreaming of a better paid job, about more advanced technology, about a better system of financing and about a more certain future in other countries

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