Russian Salaries

It is a well known fact that Russian salaries are very poor, with the average monthly wage in many Russian towns being little more than a few hundred dollars, which is often barely enough to live on.  In Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the wages are much higher than the Russian average because of the presence of the oil companies and their dozens of suppliers and subcontractors, but the absolute salary paints a false picture because the cost of living in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk is higher than any other city outside of Moscow, and many times higher than towns of similar size.

There are probably several good reasons as to why salaries in Russia are so low, but one of them revealed itself in all its splendour as I was preparing an annual budget this morning.

Under Russian law, employees are entitled to 28 days paid holiday a year.  In addition to this they also get 11 days paid public holiday per year, making a total of 39 days.  If the employee works in the Russian “Extreme North” region, which includes Sakhalin Island, they get an additional 16 days paid holiday per year, making a total of 55 days.

By Russian law, the working week is 5 days; 40 hours long for men and 36 hours for women.  55 days per year on a 5 day week equates to 11 weeks paid holiday per year, which is over a fifth of the working year.  Spread evenly over the entire year, an employee in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk could get away with a 4-day week with a man working 32 hours, and a woman putting in just under 29 hours to justify her salary.

Furthermore, overtime must be paid at a rate of x1.5 for the first two hours per day, and x2 for any hours worked over that.

It’s a small wonder that salaries in Russia – especially those of women – are shockingly bad.  Who is going to pay anyone a high salary for putting in an average of 30 hours per week?

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5 Responses to Russian Salaries

  1. W. Shedd says:

    My experience tells me that there are those workers in Russia, just as in the US, who work longer hours and work around or circumvent those rules regarding overtime, holidays, etc.

    For example, I know from long conversations with taxi drivers in the Yaroslavl region that most of them work 24 hour shifts, alternating days on/off. 3.5 days x 24 hour shifts = 84 hours a week. That doesn’t include the multitude of owner/operators in that field as well. Consider also the great multitudes legal and illegal immigrants that work in markets and construction, etc.

    Your larger point about the multitude of holidays is spot on, however (can an American get away with saying “spot on”?)

    Does your vacation and holiday calculation include the days off for Novym Godom? I recall that the government gave everyone 2 weeks off over 2005/2006, which actually became more like 3 weeks off due to everyone taking days off before the holiday.

    I think many of these holidays and such are hold-overs from the old CCCP. Worker’s paradise, remember?

    If you can get your hands on it, you might enjoy an older book – “An American Engineer in Stalin’s Russia”, by Zara Witkin. I had blogged a book review about it some time ago.

    http://accidentalrussophile.blogspot.com/2006/04/american-engineer-in-stalins-russia.html

    You might recognize many of the frustrations that Witkin had working in Russia – even if it was a different era and economy.

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  3. Stephen Lock says:

    In Moscow we’re seeing less attention paid the the working hours (in Moscow, as elsewhere, ‘white-collar’ service sector working hours are way longer than average). Our problem is wage inflation.

    For English-speakers the huge demand for staff means that we find 25% annual wage inflation (excluding promotions etc) to be about the norm. Last year it came in, for us, at an average 27% for continuing staff. You *need* huge market growth to hold that sort of cost base increase and yet still maintain margin. Rubilisation of salaries helps, but I still expect this summer’s pay round to be north of 20%. Fortunately I work for a CEE-based business: how I would get that kind of wage inflation over to an American-based boss…

  4. Tatyana says:

    Funny, I always thought Europeans (Western Europeans, that is) have indecently long vacations, compared to Americans.
    A few years ago I went to Trinidad for my week off, and spoke to some of the fellow vacationeers, mostly Brits (Scotts, for some reason) and Germans. I remember one of the women complaining that year her vacation time was slashed: instead of 5 weeks she only had 4! Such an insult.
    An English couple I befriended in Portugal, Roger – and engineer and Maureen – a nurse, said they usually spend fall half of their vacation in Algarve, i.e. 2 weeks. They also had a habit of going Carribeans in the Spring (another 2 weeks), and on Xmas they spend their week of celebrating with their folks in the country…

  5. Christine says:

    I am a European living in the US, and I happen to think that it is the US system that got it “all wrong”, with 1-2 weeks vacation at an average. I know many large companies are starting to realize the value of vacation to their employees and now have 3-4 weeks as standard…

    I would be more than happy to buy vacation time from my employee in terms os lower salary etc, and think it should be a flexible benefit for those of us who do appreciate time off.

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