Work. The history of work in Ukraine has still not been adequately studied. Under Soviet rule all men aged 16 to 59 and women aged 16 to 54 were officially considered employable (see Labor resources). People formally considered employed were those who earned incomes outside their homes and family private plots, including underaged and officially retired people working full-time. Formally unemployed people included those between jobs, the ill, the handicapped, military conscripts, students, housewives, and women tending private plots. Growth in the work force has been due largely to the ever-increasing involvement of women therein, from 21 percent of all nonagricultural employees in 1921 to 37 percent in 1940, 50 percent in 1970, and 52 percent in 1987. (In 1987, women constituted 45 percent of Ukraine's collective-farm workers.) The share of women has increased because of high male mortality in the Second World War, male migration to other Soviet republics, and the inadequacy of a single income for maintaining an entire family. In 1969, occupations with the highest percentages of women involved were public health services (84 percent), banking system (76 percent), trade and food services (75 percent), education (71 percent), communications (66 percent), the civil service (58 percent), and public housing services (50 percent). Young people who do not pursue postsecondary studies have constituted another important labor source, particularly since the early 1950s. In 1969, for example, only 20.9 percent of the 371,400 students who completed grade 10 went on to postsecondary institutions.

Under Soviet rule allocation of workers was controlled centrally in Moscow and Kyiv. From 1931 annual economic plans projected the number of workers needed by every enterprise and every profession. Professional and vocational schools trained graduates to fulfill these plans, and the USSR and Ukrainian ministries placed graduates in positions they were obliged to occupy for at least three to four years. All-Union ministries often assigned graduates of schools they ran to positions outside the Ukrainian SSR. Another form of labor allocation was the organized recruitment of workers system under which local soviets and their employment commissions found work for youths. In the Ukrainian SSR the system was co-ordinated by the Republican Commission for Youth Job Placement. At the all-Union level, the State Committee for Labor Affairs and Wages of the USSR Council of Ministers and state committees for exploiting the labor resources of individual republics oversaw most matters relating to work.

Officially unemployment did not exist from 1930 until the late 1980s in the USSR. Consequently, public unemployment records were not available, and social security was not available to the unemployed. Under Stalinism employees who came to work late or were absent were liable to imprisonment. The communist state exercised absolute control over the population through repression and the internal passport system. Forced labor was widespread. Between 1940 and 1956, workers could change jobs only with the permission of the management. From 1956, people could change without permission with two weeks' (later a month's) notice, but lost seniority, on which the amount of the retirement pension they received was based. Dismissal by the management of an enterprise was legally allowed only if the position was eliminated or if there was a general reduction in staff, and only with the approval of the enterprise's trade-union committee. If dismissal occurred for economic reasons (eg, automation), the management was required to find the employee another position with equal pay. As a result many enterprises were saddled with superfluous employees, and the introduction of new technologies was retarded. Employees, however, enjoyed considerable job security, which was considered one of the greatest achievements of communism.

Between 1969 and 1985 the percentage of employees involved in mechanized labor and mechanical repair increased from 42 to 65 percent of Ukraine's nonagricultural work force. The percentage of agricultural workers using or repairing machines and mechanical devices remained low (eg, only 28 percent of all state farmers and 32 percent of collective farmers in 1985). Productivity was very low. In 1969, for example, for every single unit of production four to five times as many workers were required in Ukraine as in the United States of America and three times as many as in Western Europe. The productivity of skilled industrial workers in Ukraine was 65 percent of that in the United States in 1970, and the corresponding figure for auxiliary workers was only 15–20 percent. According to official statistics labor productivity in Ukraine was 25 percent lower than in the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic.

According to Soviet economic doctrine, labor productivity should have increased more rapidly than wages. In practice it did not always do so, however, and the methods used to calculate labor productivity were proved faulty. In 1933 the USSR government issued decrees on wages and production norms for the Donbas mines that initiated the centralized regulation of wages. To that date, wages had been arrived at through collective agreements. In 1934 the Soviet Ukrainian government decreed that when employees failed to meet their set production norms, their wages would be determined according to the quantity and quality of production achieved and without a guaranteed minimum wage. Thereafter a minimum wage was not set until 1957 (30 rubles per month, which was gradually increased). In 1971, 40 percent of Ukrainian workers still earned minimum wages.

In 1934 a wage system based on piecework and bonuses was introduced. In 1969 still only 43.8 percent of Ukraine's industrial workers received hourly wages, despite the fact that both Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin had stated that piecework was exploitative and should not exist under socialism. To raise production norms and to force workers to work more intensively Joseph Stalin introduced ‘socialist competition,’ ‘Stakhanovism,’ and ‘shock work,’ and under Nikita Khrushchevcommunist labor brigades’ were created.

In 1922 an hourly wage tariff with 17 levels was introduced for blue- and white-collar workers, with a ratio of highest to lowest pay of eight to one. Later the ratio widened because the wages of state and Party bureaucrats grew much faster than those of the rest of the population. Industrial workers, in fact, saw their pay ranges shrink from a ratio between the highest and lowest pay of 3.6 to 1 in 1931, to 3 to 1 in 1951, and 2 to 1 in 1963. Wage reforms in 1962 introduced a six-level tariff for industrial workers. Under Nikita Khrushchev the wages of senior bureaucrats were reduced, but after his ouster they were raised again. In 1970 the basic monthly wage for blue- and white-collar workers was 60 and 450 rubles respectively, not including bonuses. Not only did the upper echelon of the nomenklatura receive substantial premiums (‘blue packets’), they could also buy goods in special ‘closed’ stores that stocked items that were generally unavailable and were, in addition, untaxed. The difference in wages among the Soviet republics and various occupations was arbitrarily set by the USSR State Committee for Labor and Wages. The most highly paid were miners, fishermen, steelworkers, scientific workers, artists, clock workers, and construction workers. Among the lowest paid were postal workers, telephone operators, doctors and other hospital personnel, state farmers, librarians, teachers, and workers in the sugar industry and light industry.

In 1741 the workday of industrial workers in Ukraine was 14 to 15 hours six days a week; in 1841, 12 hours; and in 1881, 12 or more hours, usually including overtime (see Factory legislation). An 1897 tsarist decree limited the workday to 11.5 hours, but that law was widely ignored. During the Revolution of 1905, strikes brought about a reduction of the workday to 10.9 and even 8 hours, but by 1908 the 11.5-hour workday had been restored. In 1917 the Third Universal of the Central Rada (see Universals of the Central Rada) declared an eight-hour workday. In 1919 the People's Commissariat of Labor also declared an eight-hour workday and a six-hour workday for 14- to 16-year-olds. In 1929–33 the workday in Soviet industry was reduced to seven hours, and the workweek to five days (four days of work and a day off), because of the massive influx of the peasant labor force into the cities and for antireligious purposes, to force people to work on Sundays. In the 1930s the six-day week was reintroduced, and the eight-hour workday was restored in 1940. During the Second World War years of 1943–5 the workday was extended to 11 hours, and vacations were suspended until 1947. In 1960 the workday for blue- and white-collar workers was shortened to seven hours (Saturdays, to six hours), and in 1967 the five-day workweek with Saturdays and Sundays off was introduced. In the 1970s and 1980s the average workweek in Ukraine was 39.2 hours (except for collective farmers) and 40.5 hours for industrial workers. Although overtime had been banned in 1921 as exploitative, it continued to be practiced because employees wanted to earn more, and management had to fulfill and even overfulfill their quotas. In 1930, blue- and white-collar workers received 12 days of annual paid vacation; in 1958, 18 days; and in 1960, 20 days. In the late 1980s all employees received a minimum of 15 days of vacation and an average of 22 days.

Overtime work and vacations were set according to a scale agreed upon by the enterprise's management and trade-union committee. Trade unions had an important say in collective agreements and the distribution of work-related leaves, housing, and goods and services. Conflicts between management and workers were resolved by special commissions and people’s courts. Strikes were banned under Soviet rule until 1990, except during the brief interval of the New Economic Policy (NEP) in the 1920s. The rationalization was that workers could not strike against a ‘workers' state.’ Various strikes occurred nevertheless and were violently suppressed until the late 1980s. In 1990 some 130,000 workers struck against about 260 enterprises.

Work safety in Ukraine was poor and ignored completely in many cases (notably the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear disaster), despite comprehensive labor laws. Inspection of factories was created in 1882, but inspectors were and continued to be few and for the most part corrupt. During the New Economic Policy, statistics were published on the incidence of work-related accidents, but thereafter, until 1986, the information was a state secret. It was known, however, that the highest number of accidents occurred in mining, construction industry, and agriculture. Occupational diseases were widespread, particularly in the chemical industry and in mercury, uranium, coal, and iron mines. Average annual absenteeism in Ukraine's industry in 1960–9 was 15 workdays.

In 1987 Ukraine had a work force of 20.7 million people, 14.43 million of them blue-collar workers. Of the total, 7.53 million worked in industry; over 5 million, in agriculture (3.78 million on collective farms); and 1.25 million, in construction industry. Ethnic Ukrainians constituted 70 percent of the total work force. In industry they made up 68 percent; in agriculture (excluding collective farms), 79 percent; in transportation and communications, 71 percent; in construction, 69 percent; in trade and food services, 73 percent; in public housing management and the nonmanufacturing service sector, 68 percent; in public health, fitness, and social security, 68 percent; in education, 74 percent; in culture and art, 70 percent; in science, scholarship, and their services, 59 percent; and in the government apparat, 73 percent. Of the total ethnic Ukrainian work force, 37 percent worked in industry and 2–9 percent worked in each of the remaining sectors (excluding collective farms).

Sadovs'kyi, V. Pratsia v USSR (Warsaw 1932)
Schwarz, S. Labor in the Soviet Union (New York 1951)
Kahan, A.; Ruble, B. (eds). Industrial Labor in the U.S.S.R. (New York 1979)
Sacks, M. Work and Equality in Soviet Society: The Division of Labor by Age, Gender, and Nationality (New York 1982)
Yanowitch, M. Work in the Soviet Union: Attitudes and Issues (Armonk, NY and London 1985)
Lane, D. (ed). Labour and Employment in the USSR (Brighton, Sussex 1986)
Vitruk, L. Uluchshenie sotsial'no-bytovykh uslovii zhizni trudiashchikhsia SSSR (60–80-e gg.) (Kyiv 1986)
Manykina, I.; et al (eds). Trud v SSSR: Statisticheskii sbornik (Moscow 1988)
Porket, J. Work, Employment, and Unemployment in the Soviet Union (Houndsmills and London 1989)

Vsevolod Holubnychy

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 5 (1993).]

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