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Unemployed in the Land of Diamond Fields

28 january 2009

Although Russia met the crisis more or less prepared, the problem of unemployment has not skirt this country and is manifested ever more persistently causing social tension in provinces, including those mining diamonds. The Nezavisimaya Gazeta Daily, referring to Russian historian Kostomarov, says that though the Russian people are still able to astonish foreigners by their patience, it would be risky to let matters slide to their extremes. If due to the innate patience this would not result in open disobedience, it may cause a row of concealed negative phenomena. According to the daily, the crisis gives an opportunity to look into the mirror and if the reflection is unmirthful, one has to resort to corrective gymnastics. If the federal authorities will maintain an enormous number of “strategic” companies, the daily says, less developed republics will have to tighten their belts. In its opinion, the provinces in the country’s east are lagging behind because of the negative impact of appreciating factors: their remoteness, weak infrastructure and scarce population, decreasing number of inhabitants due to migration outflow.

Yakutia is one of such provinces, where employment matters came to the fore due to the crisis. The Yakutia Daily examining the problem says in particular that the situation in the republic is quite satisfactory in this respect. Valentina Kondratyeva, Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs, has recently told the journalists that until lately statistic data proved that production in the republic was growing. Nevertheless, the soothing magic of figures cannot completely relieve of concerns about tomorrow. It cannot be completely ruled out that some people will have to change their jobs in the nearest time. Moreover, the market situation may even make you change your occupation for one which is more requested. This is not a new situation for the employment service in the republic. Last year, well before any crisis, Yakutia spent 372 million roubles for advance training, education and re-education. But will the resources of the republic be enough to meet new conditions? And where additional funds for professional re-training of workers to be dismissed are to be found?

The first thing coming to mind is the Personnel Training Center of ALROSA. Virtually, it expanded beyond the framework of a closed corporate entity turning into an organization important for the whole republic. Up to five thousand people are being trained and re-trained at the Center every year and these are not only ALROSA’s employees. Major attention is paid to training of specialties, which are most needed for Yakutia – programmers, electricians, assemblers, locksmiths, shaftmen, and engine operators. About one hundred secondary school graduates who turned to be winners at school Olympiads or were among the best to pass vocational tests are enrolled to the first year of study at higher education institutions in line with the chosen profession. Simultaneously, ALROSA renders its assistance in providing employment for several hundred indigenous persons.

“It stands to reason that our company is ready to open all its opportunities to minimize the consequences of the world economic problems for the inhabitants of this republic,” Sergey Vybornov, President of ALROSA, told our correspondent. “Our Personnel Training Center has specially designed training programs for the most popular mainstream specialties.” However, there is one problem: The ALROSA Training Center is only one and it is located in Mirny, where it wouldn’t be real to bring all those seeking to change their profession in Yakutia. Nevertheless, according to Vybornov, this problem doesn’t look irresolvable today because the Center is getting ready to introduce a system of long-distance learning, which may be described as a modern type of correspondence courses based on the newest information technologies.

It is also important that such a system is geared towards gaining something beyond merely theoretical or “academic” specialties. Today, by way of long distance training it will be possible to possess quite a specific, “mundane” specialty and, which is the main thing, it will be highly demanded in Yakutia. Thus the Personnel Training Center plans to train not only top and medium level managers, lawyers, financial experts and economists, but also technical specialists, workers, shopfloor managers and foremen. The economic and social environment requires to speed up the introduction of a long distance training system and soon even residents of the most distant quarters of Yakutia will be able to be trained in modern specialties having freely chosen any form or program or term of training.

In another article the Yakutia Daily informs that the State Assembly (Il Tumen) of Yakutia in its session dedicated to government affairs chaired by First Vice Speaker Gennady Vadyukhin discussed the government Program of additional measures to minimize tension on the labor market in Yakutia in 2009. The document brought to life by everyday reality was developed by major industrial ministries. At the session the situation was described by Alexander Vlasov, Deputy Chairman of the Government, Yekaterina Kormilitsyna, Minister of Enterpreneurship, Tourism and Employment, and Lyubov Romanova, Deputy Chairman of the Employment Committee, who informed the session about the work of her committee in 2008. Last year, 60 000 unemployed persons visited the service agencies of this committee. Over 40 000 persons were given jobs. It is not insignificant that 3 500 indigenous persons were sent to work at large-scale projects, such as the Eastern Siberia – Pacific Ocean Pipeline, railway construction, and Talakanskoye Oil Field; more than 400 people were sent to work at the diamond mining companies, namely AK ALROSA, OAO Nizhne-Lenskoye and OAO Almazy Anabara.

At the same time, by the end of the last year the number of registered unemployed grew 17% and the level of unemployment was 7.8%. In some northern areas despite the insignificant migration outflow of population this figure reached 12-14%. By mid-January 2009, 120 enterprises from 22 districts announced they were going to lay off their workers due to winding-up and personnel reduction. The greater number of employees will be fired in such fields as communal services, security services, mining and construction. As for the state-budget employees, there is information there will be staff reduction in the education field (about 2000 people are to be laid off).

Presently, 12 400 persons are registered at personnel agencies. The number is expected to reach 19 000. The aim of the above government program is to make the labor of workers faced with dismissals more competitive and preserve old and create new jobs. This means a stronger employment policy, or more rapid training of qualified local workforce to be engaged in constructing and operating the mega-projects in Western and Southern Yakutia. The program will require a total of 533.7 million roubles. As expected, the federal budget will subsidize 507 million roubles and Yakutia will give 26.7 million roubles.