By Paul Goble
Unemployment in the North Caucasus has always been higher than in other parts of the Russian Federation, but in the past year, something unusual has occurred. Earlier, the unemployed did not get payments from Moscow; but in 2020, regional officials pressed those without jobs to seek them, Natalya Zubarevich says.
“Unemployment in the North Caucasus always was high,” the Moscow State University specialist on regional economics says; but the share officially registered was in many cases far lower, allowing officials to claim that there were fewer people without jobs than in fact has been the case (caucasustimes.com/ru/kazhdyj-chetvjortyj-zhitel-chechni-i-ingushetii-poluchaet-posobija-po-bezrabotice-natalja-zubarevich/).
That also saved Moscow money, an important consideration given how much the center subsidizes the republic governments in the region. But now, with unemployment extremely high – 14 to 15 percent in most and 23 percent in Chechnya and 31 percent in Ingushetia – republic governments are pressing people to register for this Moscow money to ease the burden on them.
This program led to an explosive growth in the share of officially registered unemployment and to an increase in the money sent from Moscow to the region. Those receiving the funds and the republics are better off as a result, but the central government is having to spend even more.
Given that many officially unemployed in the region in fact have some work on farms or otherwise, the fact that official unemployment is now more than three times the all-Russian average of 4.9 percent, a figure that also understates the actual share of joblessness, ever more Russians are focusing on how the North Caucasians have found another way to exploit Moscow.
That is likely to spark a new upsurge in xenophobia, especially if the officially-registered unemployment numbers in the North Caucasus continue to be so high and Russians find it harder and harder to get assistance themselves.