Get to work: Belarus to fine people who work less than half the year

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks during a news conference in Minsk, Belarus, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. AP Photo/Sergei Grits, Pool

MINSK, Belarus – Under a new measure in Belarus, people who work less than half the year will have to pay the government for their idleness.

The parliament on Wednesday passed the proposal by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, which requires work-capable people who work less than 183 days a year to pay an annual fine of $250. Disabled people, retirees and those with young children are exempt.

A statement from parliament, where the measure passed by a 100-2 vote, said “it’s necessary to stimulate citizens who are capable of work and ensure they fulfil their constitutional obligation to take part in financing state expenditures.”

Labour Minister Marianna Shchetkina told parliament the measure would be temporary.

Belarus’ economy is stumbling in the wake of economic troubles in neighbouring Russia. The country’s official unemployment figures are very low – of a potential workforce of about 6 million, only 36,000 are registered as unemployed. However, about 25 per cent of the country’s potential workforce isn’t registered as having a job, suggesting many may be working off the books and not paying taxes.

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A 2014 study by the World Bank estimated that nearly half of Belarus’ gross domestic product was in the “shadow economy.”

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