Julia Ioffe is a writer living in New York City.
As the U.S. Senate sent American
car companies and all those union jobs packing, one country seemed to be taking
big steps to help its Main Streeters weather the storm. In a law passed quickly
and easily this morning, the Russian parliament voted to greatly expand
unemployment benefits just as jobless numbers grew by 84 percent, or 39,000
people, in the last week alone.
Now, the minimum unemployment benefit will rise by 60 percent to 1275 rubles a month (with the ruble in the can, that's about $46 at today's exchange rate). And in an uncharacteristically charitable move, the Duma extended those benefits even to those who left their jobs voluntarily. Apparently, the government has taken into account that many of the recent lay-offs have been disguised as forced resignations or demotions to part-time work.
The most interesting part of the new law, however, allows the government to do what Russian governments have always been expert at doing: forcibly resettling people. Now, the state will be able to move the unemployed to parts of the country where there are labor shortages. But, as demand for Russian commodities drops off and factories all over the country are slashing their work forces, it's hard to see where those labor shortages might be. And with the jobless rate set to double to ten percent next year, it's even harder to see how Russia, with its notoriously non-existent infrastructure, plans to resettle a few million people. Good luck, Vladimir.