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Growing wages in public sector make government jobs attractive for Russian youth

May 28, 2012, 16:19 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, May 28 (Itar-Tass) —— With permanently growing wages, Russia’s federal government officials are the most highly-paid public servants in Russia. No wonder young Russians are dreaming of posts in the public sector: more than a third of young people in Russia seek jobs with ministries and other government agencies.

According to official data from the Russian State Statistics Service, the average monthly wage of civil servants in Russian federal government bodies went up by 12.8 percent in January-March 2012 as compared with the same period in 2011 to reach 51,600 rubles (about 1,600 U.S. dollars).

A monthly pay in a range of federal agencies has reached or even exceeded a psychological level of 100,000 rubles, whilst the average pay in the economic sector is about four times lower. The leaders of the wage race are officials from the Kremlin administration, the government administration, and from a number of ministries, depending on the ability of their ministers to lobby for their interests.

In the first quarter of the current year, the unreachable leaders were officials from the administration of the government, with a monthly salary of 104,300 rubles. Note, their wages grew by as much as 54 percent in the past year. Officials from the Russian emergencies ministry, with average wages of 101,800 rubles a month, are breathing down their necks. Wages in this ministry grew three-fold in the past year. Next come officials from the Kremlin administration, the Central Election Commission, and from the state arms trader Rosvooruzhenie.

Meanwhile, monthly salaries in about 60 ministries and state agencies, which account for 86 percent of the overall number of federal structures, hardly ever reach 54,400 rubles, an average monthly wage in Moscow.

In terms of the entire country, where an average wage is mere 23,693 rubles, federal public servants are among the most well-paid.

Experts from the FBK audit and consulting company made a survey of salaries of regional executive elite and mean monthly wages in their regions. Thus, in 2011, salaries of regional officials were 1.5-times as big as average wages in 66 Russian regions.

Economists and political scientists cite a number of reasons to justify the wage hike in the public sector in the first quarter of 2012. Thus, according to the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper, which quotes Vice President of the Centre for Political Technologies Alexei Makarkin, the key reason was footed in national parliamentary and presidential elections. The authorities virtually demonstrated their care for their closest electorate – federal public sector officials.

But, according to Makarkin, it was a one-time action. Wages in the public sector are unlikely to grow that fast and that much in the next few years. And in case oil prices are going down, state servants may not hope for any adjustment of their wages, the political scientist believes.

Then, wages in Russian ministries and other government agencies were practically frozen in the period of the recent recession, says Yakov Dubenetsky, a senior research fellow with the Institute of Economic Forecasting of the Russian Academy of Sciences. So now, the authorities are merely compensating them for what they once failed to be paid. The wage hike is designed to keep people in the public sector, not letting them opt for careers in the commercial sector.

Explaining why wages in the administration of the government outweigh average monthly pay in the Kremlin administration, Dubenetsky says that there are more top-ranking than rank and file officials there.

In the meantime, a public opinion poll conducted recently by the All-Russia Public Opinion Centre revealed that each fifth Russian citizen wants to have a job with a public sector entity. And the bulk of them are young people. As many as 35 percent of the polled youth are yearning for state service.

No wonder people are hankering after government jobs, says President of the web portal Alexei Zakharov. “The worse the economic situation is the more people want to be hired by the state. People want stability and sense of security,” he told the website.

Another stimulus prompting people to opt for state service is stronger social protection and social packages, the majority of commercial sector organizations cannot boast of. Generally, it is not that easy to fire a public sector employee than someone, who is employed with a commercial organization. Moreover, along with the Labour Code, state servants have one more tool of protection – the law on state service.

State service is attractable to people because of wages (31 percent) and privileges (28 percent). Only 16 percent of the polled said they want to serve the homeland. Other considerations in favor of state service include stability (ten percent), interesting job and privileges (five percent each), status value (four percent), career-building and working in one’s profession (three percent each), and useful connections (two percent).

“Historically, the circumstances in Russia are such that state institutions may offer access to big money. So, the size of wages it not what matters, what really matters is the level of power and possibilities to get an access to government funds,” says Gleb Lebedev, the director of research of the HeadHunter portal for job-seekers.

It is not easy however to get a government job. The number of public officials is to be reduced by 20 percent by 2014, under a decree on optimizing the number of federal civil servants.

This year, the number of state servants will be cut by five percent, and by another ten – next year. In all, it is planned to reduce about 100,000 public sector servants. It will save the federal budget some 43 billion rubles, according to former Minister of Finance Alexei Kudrin.