Working in St. Petersburg
Translation by Jonathan Earle
St. Petersburg is not just a cultural center and a tourist Mecca. It’s also full of opportunities for temporary employment — especially in the summer tourist season — and long-term employment. In this sense, St. Petersburg is truly a European capital: large numbers of Europeans and migrants from the former Soviet Union work here.
Open to the World
By 2020, migrants will make up an estimated 2/5ths of the city’s labor force. Already, 1/4th of the city’s 2 million working-age residents are migrants — primarily from the former Soviet Union and other Russian regions.
There are currently 1 690 805 foreigners living in St. Petersburg according to the Federal Migration Service. Most of the 186,033 registered workers are from the former Soviet Union. The breakdown by country of origin was — Moldova: 6,519, Tajikistan: 30,438, Uzbekistan: 119,988, Ukraine: 10,054.
St. Petersburg’s labor market is smaller and less diverse than the labor market in Moscow. Although prices for goods and services are practically identical in the two cities, the average salary is about 2-3 times greater in Moscow. Thus, while creative people flock to the city on the Neva, they often seek their fortunes in Moscow.
Indeed, St. Petersburg isn’t even in the top ten Russian cities when it comes to average salary. The average St. Petersburg resident earns about 34,098rubles ($1000) per month, according to the State Statistics Service.
Russia’s labor force is about 70 million strong. The nationwide unemployment rate is 5.7 percent. The unemployment rate in St. Petersburg, however, was only 1.2 percent among the economically active population in the first quarter of 2013. Note: This number only includes those who registered with the Unemployment Office, and Russians tend not to declare themselves unemployed because benefits are very low.
Russia’s labor market — including St. Petersburg — is in crisis due to a rapid drop in fertility rates that occured in the early 1990s. In 2012, the number of young professionals entering the workforce fell in practically every sector of the economy. The service, transportation, trade and construction sectors were the hardest hit, with migrant workers arriving in large numbers to fill the vacanсies. Migrant workers also make up a large percentage of employees at small and medium-sized businesses, such as cafes, restaurants, automobile service stations, and seasonal stores (ex. fruit and vegetable retailers).
Very few migrants come to St. Petersburg without a support network. Typically, foreigners form communities and invite friends and relatives to fill job vacancies. In many cases, whole families relocate to the city. Once registered, they can send their children to local public schools (they need not speak Russian) and use public healthcare services. Many migrants feel that St. Petersburg is significantly more tolerant than Moscow. About 20 percent of migrants want to stay in Russia, and some consider St. Petersburg a stepping-stone to Europe.
This year, St. Petersburg’s quota for migrant workers was about 10,000 fewer than last year. It’s not clear what next year’s quota will be. Fortunately, there’s always work in St. Petersburg. In 2012, St. Petersburg’s labor market defied the general economic downturn: The number of vacancies increased, and average salaries rose compared to 2008-2011. Nevertheless, Russia’s labor market suffered from global economic trends. After Russia enters the WTO, local companies will be able to move manufacturing jobs to places where labor is cheaper (China, Africa, Central Asia, etc.), which will mean fewer jobs for those who come to Russia to earn money.
Any job is a good job
The number of job applicants far exceeds the number of vacancies in St. Petersburg, according to Internet-based agencies that track employment. The workers in greatest demand are:
- sales managers
- skilled workers
- sales people
There’s a deficit of skilled workers in many sectors, including medicine and pharmaceuticals. Meanwhile, the number of lawyers, marketing specialists, and advertising specialists exceeds demand. Government jobs are the most competitive, along with jobs in mass media and the publishing.
Specialists considered ordinary by EU standards can often build strong careers in Russia, where competition is weaker in many sectors. Foreigners are particularly well-represented in the restaurant and hospitality industries. Many foreigners work as brand chefs — they come to Russia, help set up a restaurant, and return home.
The employment contract forms the basis of the employer/employee relationship. Every employee must have an employment contract, even if their job is temporary or seasonal.
Employers can be legal entities or individuals (any citizen can sign an employment contract with a nanny, yardsman, etc.)
The minimum age for employment is 16 years old throughout Russia, and 14 years old with the approval of parents or legal guardians. Employees must be 18 years or older to work for the government or in workplaces that are considered dangerous.
Russia uses a flat income tax. The national income tax is 13 percent for residents and 30 percent for non-residents, although non-residents can register as sole proprietors. Employers are responsible for deducting income taxes from their employees’ salary. Individuals registered as sole proprietors must file tax returns independently.
To learn more about taxes, visit the website of the St. Petersburg division of the Federal Tax Service — http://www.r78.nalog.ru/
Able-bodied persons of working age are considered unemployed if they lack a job or income, are registered with the employment office, and are looking for work and ready to be employed. In order to receive unemployment benefits, an unemployed person must officially declare that he/she is looking for work in his/her permanent or temporary place of residence.
The law defines two categories of unemployed people — the first group receives benefits that are pegged to an average salary; the second receives minimum benefits. In order to receive benefits, a person must be insured and have worked a full or partial day (or week) for no fewer than 26 calendar weeks in the 12 months prior to becoming unemployed.
The government determines the maximum and minimum nationwide unemployment benefit each year. Currently, the minimum benefit is 850 rubles ($26), and the maximum benefit is 4,900 rubles ($151). In the first quarter of 2012, the living wage for St. Petersburg residents was:
- For the able-bodied population: 7,352.00 rubles
- For pensioners: 5,126.00 rubles
- For children (cost of living): 5,7802.50 rubles
Which documents do I need to get a job in St. Petersburg?
If you’re a highly-qualified specialist from Western Europe or the United States, your employer is responsible for handling the necessary paperwork.
Information about getting a work permit for citizens whose visit requires a Russian visa. http://www.fms.gov.ru/documents/withoutvisa/visa.php
Information about getting a work permit for citizens whose visit does NOT require a Russian visa. http://www.fms.gov.ru/documents/withoutvisa/
The St. Petersburg branch of the Federal Migration Service: http://www.ufms.spb.ru/
The St. Petersburg Committee for Labor and Employment http://www.rspb.ru/
The Labor Consultation Center, which helps Russian citizens and foreigners resolve employment issues. Hotline: (812) 753-41-90. Address: Tramvainy Prospekt 12, Apt. 2
The Unified Document Center (i.e. where to download the necessary paperwork, including for migrants) Ul. Krasnogo Tkstilshchika 10-12, tel. 777-1000, http://www.7771000.ru/
Employment websites — job.ru, rabota.ru, hh.ru, superjob.ru, zarplata.ru