On November 10, 2020, at 20:28 the Internet version of the Russian edition of “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” published an article with the headline: “To Catch up with Italy Russia has to Fire Half of its Workers”. Anastasia Bashkatova, Deputy Head of the Economics Department of “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” quoted First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov saying that Russia’s labour productivity is 2–2.5 times lower than in most developed countries, and 1.5 times lower than in less developed countries.
In this statement, the author refers to the data given in the presentation by Mr. Belousov, which states that if Russia reaches the current level of labour productivity in Italy, 36 million workers in the Russian Federation will become redundant and will need to be fired. This is almost every second employee.
Contacting the source
To clarify this statement, we contacted Mr. Belousov, and were able to get the full version of the presentation in Russian and his answer to the article. However, Mr. Belousov gave his comments regarding data from another article published by the Russian newspaper Vedomosti.
Regarding the article “For the sake of economic growth, hidden unemployment will have to be made real”, published by the Vedomosti newspaper on November 9, 2020, Mr. Belousov stated the following: “It contains a false interpretation of the materials we presented at the Hearings at the Coordination Council at the Public Chamber for National Projects and National Saving.” Mr. Belousov also gave us a link to his official response to false claims made by Vedomosti.
In his original presentation, he spoke only about ways to improve the labour productivity. Unfortunately, Mr. Belousov did not comment on the comparison of the economies of Russia and Italy. So, we sent two more queries to him from two different email addresses with a request to clarify where did the information about the difference in labour productivity between Russia and Italy come from. Unfortunately, Mr. Belousov did not reply to neither of our emails.
That is why we decided to get a second opinion from an expert in world economics and interviewed Associate Professor of the Department of Information Technology and Instrumental Methods in Economics – Anna Abrosimova.
She told us that comparing two different countries is always a difficult and time-consuming process. Living conditions, different strategic and political positions significantly affect the same socio-economic indicators, so, it is necessary to bring them to relative uniformity to be able to compare. In particular, the indicator of labour productivity is very complex in itself, if only because it has both a natural version of calculation and a value one. We can say that a simple comparison of the labour productivity indicator is incorrect. These countries have different population densities, territorial coverage, and different production structures.
For such a comparison to become possible, it is, also, necessary to assess the factors that will influence this indicator, for example, population size, average wages, working conditions, etc. Only after the research and the assessment of all possible external conditions it would be reasonable to give a comparative assessment of the situation of these two countries on this indicator. Thus, stating that labour productivity in Italy is 2 times higher than in Russia is simply inappropriate.
In the end, we didn’t manage to find any reference to the claim about the twofold difference published in the Nezavisimaya Gazeta, were unable to get a clear statement from the person, who is quoted on that claim, and our expert made it clear that such a comparison is essentially inappropriate as the objective comparison of labour productivity of two countries with substantially different economies would require an extensive economics research. That is why we believe that this claim should be deemed uncheckable.
RESEARCH | ARTICLE © Elizaveta Chertikhina, Tatiana Gotishan, Alyona Krasnikova, Nikolai Pershing, Lobachevsky University, RU and Catholic University of Milan, IT (Cross-national factcheck)
Leave your comments, thoughts and suggestions in the box below. Take note: your response is moderated.