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No More Free Lunches

Employers have stopped pampering their employees with benefits.

Workers in Russia have never been spoiled with social benefits. According to the latest research, almost half of the country’s workers (43%) don’t even know what a social benefit package is. Common workers who could have boasted of having such benefits a year ago have suffered greatly because of the economic crisis. Experts believe that this type of support has started to return recently, but the process is still slow and tenuous, as evidenced by research from the Internet portal Klerk.ru. Around half of all office workers have given up hope of receiving benefits or recompense at work.

According to the research, these benefit packages most commonly contain voluntary medical insurance, which 18% of workers receive from their employers. The next most common benefits are mobile phones (15%), transportation (10%), and free lunches (8%.) Experts note that employers have above all cut back on competitive and compensatory benefit packages in light of the current economic situation; in other words, the benefits that employees are not required to receive, but have become accustomed to having. These include medical insurance (which was much more prevalent before the crisis), discounted or free tickets to sporting events, company cars, vacation passes, reimbursement for gas and for using one’s personal car for business purposes, and partial or full reimbursement for education. Irina Krutski, managing director of a staffing agency, thinks that these benefit packages have spoiled white-collar workers more than others since, before the crisis, they received a vast array of benefits, including free access to gyms, swimming pools, and personal transportation.

According to the staffing agency, benefit packages have been the most sharply curtailed in the construction, real estate, transportation, logistics, banking, finance, insurance, and service sectors. The areas of employment that were considered the most prestigious and well-paid before the crisis hit, such as the banking, insurance, and real estate spheres, have suffered more than others. Benefits in these sectors have been cut by at least 20%. Experts say that these expanded benefit packages were more common in large cities, where higher pay and higher levels of consumption lead to higher demands for benefits; workers in small towns weren’t even aware of them before the crisis. Employers also reduced benefits for employee education, which affirms the fact that the business education market in Moscow on average shrank 30-40% in the past year.

There are still some sectors where benefit packages have stayed more or less at their previous levels. Those who are the most satisfied with their social benefits work in the communications, telecommunications, domestic goods production, and personnel sectors.

However, according to some recruiting specialists, some companies have recently begun reintroducing benefits, although so far, only partially.

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