Ukraine - Working conditions

The country's labor force in 1999 totaled 25 million people. The official unemployment rate in 1999 was 4.3

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All Food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Ukraine 34 5 16 6 4 14 22
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Russia 28 11 16 7 15 8 16
Poland 28 4 19 6 1 8 34
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
a Excludes energy used for transport.
b Includes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

percent, though this number is thought to significantly underestimate a large number of unregistered or unemployed workers. The minimum wage is $21.70 and the minimum pension for retirees and those on public assistance is only $4.70. The average wage is $41.60 per month. The very low wages paid in the country mean that many Ukrainians must work second or third jobs. Because many such jobs are in the informal sector, the wages and production earned there are not accounted for in government statistics. Some estimates conclude that the informal economy may be as large as 70 percent of the formal economy.

The Labor Code (the body of laws which govern labor standards, working conditions and wages) provides for a maximum 40-hour work-week, one 24-hour day of rest per week, and at least 24 days of paid vacation per year. The minimum employment age is 17 years. In certain non-hazardous industries, however, enterprises may negotiate with the government to hire employees between 14 and 17 years of age, with the consent of one parent.

Ukrainian law contains occupational safety and health standards, but these are frequently ignored in practice since there is little enforcement of the laws. Because of limited funding, there are few officials to inspect workplaces and the labor laws only provide minor punishments for violations (therefore many employers find it more affordable to pay the fines rather than upgrade working areas to meet government standards). In 1999, 913 people were killed and over 47,000 injured in accidents at work. Under the law, workers have a legal right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardizing continued employment. However, many workers fear that if they leave their job they will not be able to find another.

Ukrainian workers have the right of association, and the right to organize and bargain collectively. Although officially they have these rights, the government is actively trying to stop the workers of some economic sectors from using these rights, such as in the nuclear industry. Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by the Ukrainian constitution, however, there are some forms of compulsory labor. For example, the common use of army conscripts and youths in the alternative service for refurbishing and building private houses for army and government officials; also, students, whose studies have been paid for by the government, have to work in the public sector at government-designated jobs for 3 years or more to repay fully the cost of their education.

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