Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on Friday urged Armenians working off the books to press their employers to register their jobs with tax authorities, saying that this is essential for protecting their labor rights.
In a May Day statement, Pashinian also argued that his government finds it difficult to help unregistered workers hit hard by the economic shutdown resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our anti-crisis programs first of all target those people and companies that have complied with the Labor Code and the Tax Code of the Republic of Armenia,” he said. “We have thereby not only honored our working citizens but also taken advantage of the fact that it is easier to identify registered workers if they lose their jobs and need assistance during the crisis.”
“Having a registered job is an important guarantee for the protection of worker’s rights, and I call on all employed citizens to demand that their employers register their jobs and support the government in protecting their own labor rights,” added Pashinian.
Many people have for decades been involved in the informal sector of Armenia’s sector. Employers had not registered those workers in order to avoid paying their income and pension taxes.
Official statistics suggest that the number of such workers has fallen significantly since Pashinian came to power and pledged a tough crackdown on tax evasion two years ago. According the State Revenue Committee (SRC), private entities have reported more than 87,000 new jobs to the tax service from May 2018 through December 2019. Most of these jobs are believed to have been created before that period.
The number of unregistered workers -- and day laborers in particular -- apparently remains high as evidenced by public reactions to recent government decisions to compensate people who have temporarily or permanently lost their jobs due to the coronavirus lockdown. The government has faced many complaints about compensating only officially registered workers.
Heriknaz Tigranian, a parliament deputy from the ruling My Step bloc, acknowledged on Friday the broader protection of labor rights in Armenia is still weak. She singled out the arbitrary dismissal of workers, saying that it remains widespread.
Tigranian criticized the former Armenian government for dissolving the State Labor Inspectorate, which was supposed to ensure such protection, in 2013. She said that decision should be offset by amendments to the Labor Code passed by the Armenian parliament late last year.
The amendments expanded the powers of another, existing government agency, the Health and Labor Inspectorate. Starting from July 2021, it will be tasked with not only ensuring the physical safety of workers but also protecting their social rights.