Muscovites Forced to Take Low-paid Jobs amid Lockdown: Report

The official unemployment rate in Moscow has risen more than 50% over the past three weeks, with more and more citizens of the Russian capital taking low-paid jobs to keep income coming amid an unravelling economic crisis, the Moscow Times writes.

Alexei Kudrin, head of the state Audit Chamber and a former finance minister, has warned that the lockdown brought on by the coronavirus pandemic could leave some 8 million Russians without a job this year.

President Vladimir Putin has said that all Russians who lose their jobs due to the lockdown will receive monthly unemployment pay of up to 12,130 rubles ($160). Moscow residents who become unemployed will receive 19,500 rubles ($256) per month.

Moscow, Russia’s most expensive city, was recently ranked 86th in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Cost of Living index, suggesting that 19,500 rubles a month is far from enough for ordinary people to live on in the city.

As a result, Muscovites who felt financially confident before the pandemic — with their own small business or steady, well-paying jobs — are now adjusting to a new reality. According to a survey by the portal, 69% of Russians say they plan to change their job during the lockdown and 43% say they plan to look for a more promising job.

Nazar, a performer whose shows combining magic tricks and science were popular with children, has had to resort to stocking shelves in a grocery store. He said he decided to find a new job as soon as he first heard media reports of a looming economic crisis.

“I made my own forecast about the further development of the situation. … I decided to change my line of work. At the time, I thought things could get worse and my family would fall on the brink of survival,” Nazar, 30, said.

He abandoned his work as a performer in late March, days before the Moscow authorities placed the city under lockdown. Nazar said he feels lucky because he got hired at a store relatively quickly.

Boris Kagarlitsky, a professor at the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, said the issue of unemployment will continue to gain momentum and that the coronavirus has simply exposed the fundamental flaws in the nation’s “social welfare system.”

“The entire system is starting to collapse, and the state budget has no financial solution for that,” Kagarlitsky said. “The government absolutely has to step in and modernize the economic system. I do not think that the current option of simply distributing money is sufficient. One has to create jobs and opportunities for work.”