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Chechnya’s Finance Minister Sultan Tagayev announced on Monday that 10,000 ‘high-performing jobs’ were created throughout ‘all sectors of the economy’ over the last five years in Chechnya, including more than 4,500 in 2017. However, a number of local residents told OC Media that the local authorities artificially inflate employment statistics, denying people their right to unemployment benefits.
According to Tagaev, who is also deputy chair of Chechnya’s Government, the new jobs were created by implementing high-tech investment projects. He said that a number of projects in construction material production, the food industry, and agriculture are being carried out in Chechnya.
According to Russia’s state statistics agency, Rosstat, in May 2018, 56,000 people were registered as unemployed in Chechnya, a rate of 9.0%. This was down 2.3% from the same period the previous year.
While local media outlets frequently cover official reports of economic success, local residents often complain that these are not a reflection of the reality in Chechnya. A number of local people who spoke with OC Media on condition of anonymity reported that it was almost impossible to register as unemployed in Chechnya or to receive unemployment benefits, with people denied access to material aid envisaged by the law.
According to several people, complaints to the Prosecutor’s Office about being denied benefits are rejected with the explanation that granting unemployment benefits spoils Chechnya’s positive statistics as well as relations between the republic’s leadership and the Kremlin.
One resident of Grozny, Malkan, told OC Media she was cut off from unemployment benefits without being notified or given any explanation.
‘When I went to the district social protection department of the Ministry of Labour and Social Development, I was not even given the reason for the termination of my benefits payments. I didn’t bother to register a complaint; I was told that it’s would be pointless and that they do it to reduce the unemployment rate’.
Local residents claimed that many people instead paid bribes in order to register as disabled, which comes with a maximum monthly benefits payment of ₽20,000 ($318), sometimes registering entire families as disabled. According to a number of sources, the cost to have this approved ranges from ₽150,000–₽300,000 ($2,400–$4,700).
Salambek, from Grozny, told OC Media that he and his family, including his four children, were all registered as disabled, despite being healthy. He said the family received monthly benefit payments of around $1,000 as a result.
Zara, another local resident, told OC Media people in Chechnya did not feel any remorse for claiming benefits from the Russian state that they were not legally entitled to, as after experiencing two wars, this was a ‘fair reward’.