Over the last few years, problems in the labour market have become an object of special attention for the Russian government. Both President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev have talked about about the necessity of improving work productivity. But over many years the situation hasn’t really got any better. In terms of labour productivity, Russia is falling far behind both Western countries and some East-Asian economies.
One of the reasons for this is the opportunistic attitude and behaviour of employees, who are not interested in hard work, the experts conclude.
Opportunistic behaviour in the workplace, as well as absenteeism, have been widely studied in many countries, in papers on labour economics. But there haven’t been many similar studies in Russia, and the ones that have been carried out have focused on specific factors influencing absenteeism, such as fear of unemployment (Gimpelson, Monusova (2009).
Andrey Kaplan, a 4th year student of the HSE International Institute of Economics and Finance (ICEF), conducted research on ‘Influence of Employee’s Individual Characteristics and Company’s Specifics on the Level of Absenteeism’, and has tried to understand what makes Russians skip work.
The study was based on the Russian 14th wave (2005) of the Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey (RLMS-HSE), with the use of the Heckman correction method. Theoretically the model was based both on a simple model of labour supply, widely used in such studies, as well as the Shapiro-Stiglitz model, used in this context for the first time. This gives a high evaluation relevance and can help to shed light on the phenomenon of absenteeism.
According to Kaplan, who presented the research results at a HSE Laboratory of Labour Market Studies seminar, the study analyzed the behaviour of officially registered employees, whose working hours were not cut by the employer. ‘Company owners were excluded from the study, since their usefulness depends on different parameters than the usefulness of employees’, the author explained.
The main conclusions made by the researcher include the following: the main factors in absenteeism are delays in salary payment and the employee’s gender. In addition to that, the phenomenon (but not its scale i.e. not the number of absences) is influenced by such parameters as the employee’s age, experience, satisfaction with the job, salary, career development, fear of losing their job, situation in the labour market, chances of finding a new job with the same salary, and security at work.
‘As our calculations have proved, the possibility of being fired considerably decreases absenteeism, along with job satisfaction and opportunities for career growth. Employees with more experience miss work less,’ Kaplan mentioned, ‘And a company’s debts to its staff, on the contrary, worsen an employee’s attitude to work, and increase his or her absence from the workplace. A delay in salary by 1,000 roubles a months increases absenteeism by 0.6%’.
Gender factor also turned to be important, the author says. Women are more inclined towards absenteeism, than men. ‘The reason for this may well be that women have more familial and domestic duties’, Kaplan explained.
According to Andrey Kaplan, the model for calculating absenteeism from this study can be used by employers both for staff selection and to help understand the consequences of delaying salaries. ‘An employer can ask himself: does it make sense to cut payments and decrease work productivity, or is it better to take a bank loan to maintain the status quo’, the researcher summarizes.