Coronavirus and unemployment in Azerbaijan: 600,000 people will receive aid, but many more will be left behind
PHOTO: Josh Appel
600,000 Azerbaijani citizens who have lost their jobs due to the quarantine will receive benefits to the tune of $223.5 for two months’ living expenses. This amount, equal to the minimum cost of living, as well as the number of people who would receive aid, was determined by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security.
Applications for benefits were submitted online, and the process has now ended. At the moment, 400 thousand people have received money, and the remaining applications are still being considered.
The actual number of people left without work due to the quarantine is unknown.
Those who had an official contract of employment that was terminated, and those who were not registered employees, but who received no other benefits from the state, were able to apply.
$ 113 (190 manat) per month is a very modest amount in Azerbaijan. Especially considering that neither bank loans nor utility payments were suspended, despite public demands.
For comparison, the fine for individuals violating the quarantine is a minimum of 100 manat – more than half of the official living wage.
Economist Togrul Mashalli believes that the actual number of victims suffering from the quarantine and in need of assistance is much greater:
“The government made a very rough estimate of how many people they would pay benefits to. The figure of 600 thousand was literally pulled from thin air, and does not reflect the true picture. There was no discussion, no research, nothing. We do not, in fact, know how many people in the country were left unemployed.”
Official figures from the evening of April 26 state that the total number of COVID-19 cases in Azerbaijan is 1645. 21 have died, and 1139 have already recovered.
The country is under quarantine until May 4. Most businesses, organizations and commercial facilities have been closed. The metro, parks, squares have also been shut down. In order to leave their home, people must either have a certificate of employment, or receive permission by SMS from the authorities.
Since April 27, the quarantine regime has been relaxed somewhat – in particular, some stores have opened (except for those located in shopping centers) and people are given SMS permission to leave for a three hour period during the day (it used to be two.)