A short overview of the precarious work in Macedonia

General information on the labor situation in Macedonia

Jasminka Mitkovska je prevajalka, profesorica angleščine in makedonščine, prekarna delavka iz Makedonije, članica Gibanja za dostojno delo in socialno družbo.

According to last census conducted in the Republic of Macedonia in 2002, there are 2.022.547 inhabitants. According to the data of the State Statistical Office, in the II quarter of 2018, the labour force in the Republic of Macedonia numbered 957.471 persons, of which 755.073 were employed, while 202.398 were unemployed persons. The activity rate in this period was 56.9, the employment rate was 44.9, while the unemployment rate was 21.1. [1]

The situation of the workforce in the last few years is very well depicted by the report done by the State Department’s Office of Investment Affairs’ Investment Climate Statement and published on 8 August 2017. This gives us an overview of the general situation of the Macedonian labor.

The average net wage in 2016 was EUR 341.37 per month, but reportedly about 60 % of workers receive wages lower than that average.  The minimum wage in 2017 is 10.080 MKD (EUR 156) per month except for the textile and leather industry, where the minimum wage for 2017 is 9.590 MKD (EUR 148.46) per month. [2]

As of March 2017, Macedonia’s labor force consisted of 952.644 people; 734.043 people (43.7 %) were employed and 218.601 (22.9 %) were unemployed.  Employment and unemployment ratios by gender are similar to the ratio of the active labor force, i.e., roughly 61 % male and 39 % female.  The unemployment rate for youth (15 to 24 year olds) was 44.4 %, down by 2.9 percentage points from the end of 2016.  About 20 percent of the unemployed have university-level education; the rest have only completed a secondary school or lesser level of education.

Following these numbers foreign investors find Macedonia attractive, but despite the relatively high unemployment rate, they sometimes report difficulties in recruiting and retaining workers.  Positions requiring technical and specialized skills can be especially difficult to fill due to a mismatch between industry needs, the educational system, and graduates’ aspirations.  Many well-trained professionals with marketable skills, such as IT specialists, choose to work outside Macedonia.  Macedonia is not and has never been attractive for migrant workers who bypass Macedonia for higher wages and better opportunities in more affluent Western European economies.

Relations between employees and employers are generally regulated by individual employment contracts, collective agreements, and labor legislation.  The Law on Working Relations is a general act that regulates all forms of employment, relations between employees and employers, retirement, lay-offs, and union operations.  Severance and unemployment insurance are covered by the Law on Working Relations and the Law on Employment and Insurance in cases of unemployment.  Most labor-related laws are in line with international labor standards, and generally within recommendations of the International Labor Organization (ILO).

 

Precarious journalists

When it comes to precarious work, there have been no official data, nor an estimation of the complete situation. Although there is no statistics on the number of precarious workers (as mentioned earlier there has been no census of the total population, let alone an estimation on the precarious workers), it is evident that their number increases with geometric progression.

What makes the situation more difficult is the fact that the general public doesn’t really know what the term precarious mean.

However, one of the rare documents on this topic is the report on the research in the precarious work in Macedonian media done in 2014 which shows that more than 89% of freelance employees believe that their job is generally or totally insecure. Half of the respondents emphasize that the idea of collective protection of labour rights is being kept silent among the management, while the journalists do not speak about it publicly. 78.8% do not know what the term Precariat means, while the others explained it as employment without a contract, gray economy. Precariat is explained as a source of uncertainty, anxiety and a source of conflicting emotional states that affect the psychological stability and health of workers.

55.8%  emphasize that in the media they work for, there is no discussion of precarity. 32.6% out of the remaining respondents (14.4% of all the respondents) say that the management is also silent, hence the journalists themselves do not mention this topic or express their dissatisfaction in informal communication. [3]

However, the essence of precarious work and the Precariat as a separate class of those doomed to lengthy, dependent, occasional or temporary work, in full existential and professional insecurity, employed under fixed-term contracts which guarantee no rights and protection and which can be terminated with no consequences for the employer is, unfortunately, very well known to journalists and also to workers from other sectors.

Precarious work, regardless whether it takes the form of fake “free lancers” or fixed-term contracts as in Macedonia, has one distinct feature: it is insecure, impermanent, unprotected and poorly paid and makes journalists frustrated, dissatisfied and subservient and has had dramatic consequences on the professionalism, quality and, above all, freedom of journalism, which extends to the freedom of public speech, the quality of public debate, the right of the public to be informed and make decisions based on that information. [4]

Precarious translators

All these conditions lead to precarious work in translation. As mentioned before, there is not any official data about the work of translators, most of the peope who translate are doing that as an additional side project, besides their jobs where they are employed. Having this in mind, it is clear that the prices of translations can get lower and lower. Very rarely you will find a free-lance translator who is registered as a sole proprietor and pays their own contributions, does only translations and is satisfied. Those who do that are most often prominet translators with a lot of experience and mainly translate for foreign companies or institutions such as EU, OSCE , etc. and they are not many, nor they are the real picture of the situation. Their circumstances allow them to keet their prices »normal« i.e. not to work for »peanuts« as other translators.

Many translators have to work for low prices, and they are getting lower and lower due to the fact that everybody who is unemployed but »can speak some English« translates, and they usually charge very little which is logical because they are only trying to survive untill they get employed. Translators, on the other hand are not very loud about this, it’s difficult to estimate because they tend not to talk about it, nor they tell the real cost of their translations. Currently, there is no law on what you offer on the market so you have court translations starting from 1 euro per page, as advertised on the following link: https://reklama5.mk/Search/Index?cat=1305&subcat=1400. This situation makes translating one of the most badly paid professions and very liable for precarious work. Except the Macedonain association of tranlators there si no other institution, association or assistance should it come to problems with payment. The only solution is to go to court.

This situation of the society calls for organizing and developing mechanisms to fight precarious work on all levels in Macedonia. One solution could be establishing associations which will deal with this type of work and connecting to other similar organizations in EU and the world which will have the same goal: protecting precarious workers and stopping this practice spread.

References:

European Federation of Journalists. Čausidis Tamara. 77 % of journalists in Macedonia work under constant risk of being fired. 25.11.2014. Available on: http://europeanjournalists.org/fr/2014/11/25/77-of-journalists-in-macedonia-work-under-constant-risk-of-being-fired/  (Accessed 09.09.2018).

Giorgievski Zvezdan. Prekarni rabotnici, 28.07.2014. Available at: https://okno.mk/node/39647  (Accessed 09.09.2018).

Gjorgjioska Adela, Layoffs of pregnant workers in Macedonia, 23.01.2017. Available on: http://www.criticatac.ro/lefteast/layoffs-of-pregnant-workers-in-macedonia/ (Accessed 09.09.2018).

Popovikj Jasmina, Rudikj Borka, Čabarkapa Dragana, Čamovikj Marijana, Ozimec Kristina. Precarious work in media – Macedonian version, 24.11.2014, Skopje. Available at: http://ssnm.org.mk/precarious-work-media/?lang=en and: http://ssnm.org.mk/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Prekarna-rabota-vo-mediumskata-industrija-fin.pdf (Accessed 09.09.2018).

State Department’s Office of Investment Affairs. Macedonia-9.2.- Labour Policies and Practices. 17.08.2017. Available on: https://www.export.gov/article?id=Macedonia-Labor (Accessed 09.09.2018).

State Statistical Office of The Republic of Macedonia. Active Population in the Republic of Macedonia Results from the Labour Force Survey, II quarter 2018. 07.09.2018 Available at: http://www.stat.gov.mk/PrikaziSoopstenie_en.aspx?rbrtxt=98 (Accessed at 09.09.2018)

 

[1] State Statistical Office of The Republic of Macedonia. Active Population in the Republic of Macedonia Results from the Labour Force Survey, II quarter 2018. 07.09.2018 Available at: http://www.stat.gov.mk/PrikaziSoopstenie_en.aspx?rbrtxt=98 (Accessed at 09.09.2018)

 

[2] State Department’s Office of Investment Affairs. Macedonia-9.2.- Labour Policies and Practices. 17.08.2017. Available on: https://www.export.gov/article?id=Macedonia-Labor (Accessed 09.09.2018)

 

[3] Popovikj Jasmina, Rudikj Borka, Čabarkapa Dragana, Čamovikj Marijana, Ozimec Kristina. Precarious work in media – Macedonian version, 24.11.2014, Skopje. Available at: http://ssnm.org.mk/precarious-work-media/?lang=en and: http://ssnm.org.mk/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Prekarna-rabota-vo-mediumskata-industrija-fin.pdf (Accessed 09.09.2018)

 

[4] European Federation of Journalists. Čausidis Tamara. 77 % of journalists in Macedonia work under constant risk of being fired. 25.11.2014. Available on: http://europeanjournalists.org/fr/2014/11/25/77-of-journalists-in-macedonia-work-under-constant-risk-of-being-fired/  (Accessed 09.09.2018)