Western companies are leaving Russia — taking Russian jobs with them | European | News and current affairs from across the continent | DW

Until mid-January, Alexander (name changed) worked 12-hour night shifts in a factory and earned 35,000 rubles ($506, €480) a month. The 22-year-old student from the Saratov region in southwestern Russia wanted to become a pilot, but when medical reasons made it impossible, he decided to become a flight attendant instead.

He came across a job offer for a Russian airline and immediately applied. He was invited to an interview and a practical test in Volgograd, both of which went well. By this time, Alexander had already left his job at the factory. The airline offered him good terms — training in Moscow followed by a contract position with a monthly salary of around 100,000 rubles ($1,445, €1,370).

Russia’s aviation industry has been hit hard by Western sanctions

But he was never able to follow the training. On February 24, Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine – and foreign companies began to leave the Russian market. Western sanctions against hundreds of individuals and companies, including airlines, were also passed. Additionally, the West closed its airspace to Russian aircraft and banned the sale, delivery and transfer of aircraft and spare parts to Russia. This caused aircraft leasing companies to terminate aircraft contracts in Russia, but Russian companies did not give up their vehicles. However, these leased aircraft now operate only a few domestic routes.

Alexander’s training and subsequent employment was cancelled. He doesn’t think it makes sense to apply for jobs with other airlines: “The planes don’t go through the normal maintenance checks, spare parts aren’t delivered, so the condition of these planes that are in flight is just not It is not clear The risks are too high for me.

Back to the economy of the 90s

Tatiana Mikhailova, an economist and senior lecturer at the New Economic School in Moscow, says the sanctions will have long-term effects, including excluding Russia from global supply chains, and that the restrictions will lead to isolation and to technological delays.

“The aviation industry is already shouting that it will run out of spare parts in six months. Other industries will experience the same development,” Mikhailova said. She expects the Russian economy to return to what it was in the 1990s.

She stressed that the sanctions would affect all sectors of the Russian economy that use foreign components, such as the automotive industry, the pharmaceutical sector and even agriculture, which sources seeds from abroad.

“Businesses will be forced to close and lay off employees. The demand for goods and services will decrease, as the population will be poorer, and this will affect all sectors, even hairdressers,” Mikhailova said.

Two workers examine a VW car on a factory assembly line

Sanctions affect all parts of the Russian economy, like this VW plant in Kaluga

According to the expert, many Russians are already losing their jobs or unable to find new ones as the demand for skilled workers decreases. She says Moscow residents are particularly affected, as many of them work in the financial sector or in services, marketing and advertising. According to figures from the mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, some 200,000 people in the Russian capital alone could lose their jobs due to the departure of foreign companies.

Moscow resident: one of the first to lose her job

Aliona (name changed), a 19-year-old resident of Moscow, worked as a saleswoman for the Spanish clothing chain Zara. The work fits well with his university studies. But in early March, the company told its employees that all stores in Russia would close and no one needed to come to work. “My colleagues and I were expecting this, but not so fast,” Aliona said.

She still receives two-thirds of her salary and her annual leave is paid. “My situation is not the worst. I was only working there for the money and I wanted to quit soon anyway. Now I want to focus on my personal development and find a job that I love,” says Aliona, who is currently taking a design course.

An Orthodox church is reflected in the window of a Louis Vuitton store

Many high-end luxury stores have closed in Russia

Marina (change of name) also wants a job, in which she can develop further. The 30-year-old Moscow resident currently works in digital marketing. Last winter, a company where she had wanted to work for a long time told her that there was a position for her. But when Russia’s war in Ukraine started, management suddenly said they wouldn’t hire anyone again.

This greatly upset Marina. “Of course, I would like to find a similar position, but it is not realistic in the near future. Many companies are reducing their workforce and in general the demand for new employees has decreased considerably, especially in marketing”, she said. For now, it is not about individual fulfillment but about finding a source of income, she added. “You have to be happy with every opportunity to earn something more,” she stressed.

Mass unemployment by the end of the year

Forbes recently announced that more than 600,000 jobs could be cut in Russia by the end of the year. For Alexander, the loss of his job came with major emotional side effects.

“If I hadn’t passed the test, it would have been my fault, and I could have fixed it. But something happened that I couldn’t have predicted and can’t change, and it hurts,” he added. mentioned. Alexander now wants to get a higher education and then look for a job. His parents help him with money.

A woman holding a sign in Russian against the war in Ukraine is detained by police

Anti-war protesters in Russia face arrest and prosecution

None of the people who spoke to DW support Russia’s war in Ukraine, and all have thought about leaving their country. “We’ve had some general thoughts about the move, but we don’t plan to leave Russia at the moment. But we’ll keep that possibility in mind,” Marina said.

Aliona first wants to graduate from a Russian university, then she wants to move to Germany.

Alexander’s stay in the Russian capital was meant to be a stepping stone to somewhere. “I thought it would give me opportunities,” he said. After Moscow, he planned to go abroad. “But it’s much more complicated now. The prices have gone up, but the salaries have stayed the same, and people are not happy about that. But instead of holding the Russian government accountable, they blame the people behind the sanctions. “, criticized Alexander. He admits he really wants to leave, but finds it hard to talk about it.

Some of DW’s servicing partners have requested, for personal security reasons, that their full names not be published.

This article was originally written in Russian.

Clifton L. Boyd