Remote work and reduction of working time
According to Rosstat, in April 2020, every fourth employee was absent from work, and the average working week fell by almost 10 hours. In May 2020, despite the partial lifting of restrictions, almost 20% of employees did not start work: they were sent on vacation, including at their own expense. Then working hours began to slowly recover, but even in December 2020, the share of temporarily absent was one third higher than in December 2019, although the average working time was almost equal to the pre-pandemic values. The total loss of working time in the second quarter of 2020 compared to the first quarter was about 18%, which is much larger than the scale of the decline in GDP and is equivalent to the loss of about 3 million full-time jobs. HSE calculations show that the loss of working time was by ¾ due to a decrease in working time among those who kept their jobs, and only by – due to layoffs.
The coronavirus crisis gave rise to another specific adaptation mechanism that also held back the decline in employment – remote work. According to the RLMS HSE, in the pre-crisis period the share of those who worked remotely was negligible and did not exceed 1% of all employed. In April-May 2020, there was a sharp jump to about 15%; however, already in June-July, the coverage of remote work fell by half to 7%, and by the end of the year – to 3%. This is less than in many developed countries. For example, in Australia, France and the UK, about half of workers reported that they worked from home for some time in 2020. At the same time, Russian indicators are comparable to the coverage of remote work, for example, in Italy, where the involvement of workers in remote work was about 20% in May 2020.
Queue for benefits
The number of registered unemployed, meanwhile, has grown unprecedentedly due to a sharp increase in unemployment benefits and the simplification of their receipt. The minimum allowance has tripled, the maximum one and a half times, and the number of recipients of allowances has increased in the maximum amount. With regional coefficients and additional payments from regional authorities, the amount of benefits could reach up to 25,000 rubles in the summer of 2020.
Unemployed parents were given 3,000 rubles for each child. The registration procedure itself became remote, the requirements for the package were simplified, and the unemployed were actually no longer required to find a job. As a result, the influx of applicants to employment services increased, who did not lose and did not want to look for work. So, if before April 2020 the share of those dismissed in the current or last month was up to half of all those recognized as unemployed, then in April-September their share is reduced to 25-30%. Conversely, the proportion of those who did not officially work before registering with the employment service increases from 10% to 30-40%.
Only by December 2020, after a significant part of the temporarily introduced additional payments was canceled, the ratio between different groups of new unemployed returns to pre-pandemic indicators. Thus, in April-October 2020, the number of Russians who were not previously part of the labor force or were employed in the informal employment segment increased disproportionately. Representatives of the first group did not work before the start of the pandemic, but the pandemic forced them to look for work, or they were registered only in order to receive benefits and additional payments for children. And informally employed people either lost their jobs or simply decided to receive benefits and payments.