Belarus: The rise of the European underdog
Michelle Reilly, MD of CXC Global EMEA
When many professionals consider working opportunities across Europe, the likes of Germany, Switzerland or France may be front of mind, however very few would think of Russia’s little brother, Belarus. Given that the country has faced economic struggles over the last twenty years that were exacerbated by the global financial crisis, contractors can perhaps be forgiven for overlooking the land-locked state.
However, this European ‘underdog’ shouldn’t be underestimated.
Having struggled through difficult times in recent years and faced tough political scrutiny, it seems that now is the time for Belarus to shine. Indeed, despite being deep in a recession last year, 2016 has proven to be much more positive for its economy as the country strengthens its industries and improves relationships with other European nations.
Aside from a rise in general positivity, the country’s industrial production has also grown consistently over recent months – expanding 3.4% between April and May. And according to predictions, the economy is expected to grow by 0.2% in Q4 this year. Looking further afield, outlook from Focus Economics Consensus Forecast Belarus – May 2016, predicts a growth of annual GDP by 2.4% between 2017 and 2020.
Looking specifically at sectors, the country is still relatively reliant on industrial production, but there are numerous areas that are growing and present great opportunities for agencies placing contractors in these specialisms. For example, Belarus is a partner country of the EU INOGATE energy programme, which has four key areas of focus: Enhancing energy security; convergence of member state energy markets on the basis of EU internal energy market principles; supporting sustainable energy development; and attracting investment for energy projects of common and regional interest. In order to achieve each of these targets, the country will need specialist contract skills to implement new green energy initiatives.
There’s also a real demand for English teachers in Belarus at the moment as the predominantly Belarusian and Russian speaking country looks to expand the language knowledge of its citizens to help it better align itself with its European connections.
Clearly, then, there’s scope for expert professionals in these sectors to find work in the country. Perhaps more importantly, though, for those contractors seeking something new and exciting, a placement in Belarus could be just what the doctor ordered. We all know how exciting it can be to be part of a growing economy and the challenges this throws up.
There are also many individuals who are drawn to the country for multiple cultural aspects. Belarus is filled with amazing architecture and offers a real insight into a way of life that is vastly different from much of Western Europe. And for historical enthusiasts, Belarus is steeped in rich cultural heritage. The country's museums and galleries showcase the background and culture of the Belarusian people. For those interested in entertainment, there’s the Belarus Opera and Ballet Theatre, which plays host to regular shows.
Beyond the cities, the country is full of natural sights – around 43% of Belarus is covered in forest – all of which adds to the more relaxing and enjoyable pace of life that many workers in the country boast.
For recruiters looking to place contractors in the country, however, there are a few things to bear in mind. For example, a work permit will be needed for those from all English speaking countries. While citizens from Armenia, Cuba, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Venezula can enter the country without visas for specified periods, those outside of this list face potentially confusing visa processes. Work permits and local employment taxes can be a minefield, so it’s certainly advisable to partner with an expert to ensure you and your contractors experience a smoother process.
And of course the language barriers could still present a problem, with few beyond the younger generation fluent in English. However, those able to speak Russian or indeed Belarusian will certainly find themselves at an advantage.
While Belarus may not be the first country to spring to mind when thinking of placing contractors across borders or seeking work yourself, this European underdog is starting to prove itself a bit of a rising star.
Picture provided by BlueSky PR