By Atom Markarian
The Armenian government approved on Wednesday financial incentives designed to encourage private employers to hire disabled and elderly persons as well as other socially vulnerable groups of the population.
Under a government bill to be sent to parliament soon the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs will add 6,500 drams ($14.5) to the monthly salary of every new worker deemed “uncompetitive” in the labor market. They also include convicts recently released from prison, orphans and former refugees from Azerbaijan.
“The compensation will be paid to those employers that will hire individuals belonging to those vulnerable groups,” said Sona Harutiunian, head of the ministry’s National Employment Agency. “This program will make them more attentive to those groups.”
It remains to be seen if the subsidy, which equals half of the official minimum wage in Armenia, will improve vulnerable people’s chances of finding a job in the unemployment-stricken country. Harutiunian said the government will also retrain them free of charge.
The bill approved by ministers aims to create equal job opportunities for all Armenians of working age. “Today we are embarking on a pro-active policy on employment,” declared Deputy Labor Minister Ara Petrosian.
Unemployment is the number one socioeconomic problem in Armenia. Government figures put the unemployment rate at 9 percent. But according to unofficial estimates, it could be as high as 30 percent.
Official figures show the Armenian economy expanding by an average of 11 percent in the last four years. The government announced on Wednesday that economic growth continued at a robust rate of 7.8 percent in the first quarter of this year. But officials admit that the rate of job creation has been more modest.