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Hardcover | $8.75 Short | £6.95 | ISBN: 9780262041843 | 268 pp. | 6.25 x 9.25 in | January 2001

Work Without Wages

Russia's Non-Payment Crisis


The seventy-year-old Soviet tradition of "wages without work" soon turned into "work without wages" when the planned economy began switching to a market system in 1992. Lack of budget discipline, the breakdown of contractual obligations at all levels, and the failure of state agencies to enforce laws among businesses led to pervasive wage nonpayment to workers in both the public and private sectors. In this book Padma Desai and Todd Idson combine econometric rigor, policy analysis, and empirical evidence to analyze wage nonpayment patterns across demographic groups defined by gender, age, and education, and in various occupations, industries, and regions of Russia. They also examine wage nonpayment to Russia's military personnel, in the wider context of a disintegrating military. Focusing on the roots and scale of wage nonpayment, the book is an indispensable guide to understanding Russia's economic restructuring and of the social costs of the transition born by the general population.Among the questions addressed are: How did Russia's factory managers decide who, among various categories of workers, would not get paid? Did wage denial push people below the poverty line? How did families survive when denied wages? Did strikes lead to reduced wage arrears? The authors describe a variety of survival strategies on the part of Russian families, including informal paid activity, the selling of family assets, home production for consumption and sale, and the receiving of cash from relatives.

About the Author

Padma Desai is the Gladys and Roland Harriman Professor of Comparative Economic Systems and director of the Center for Transition Economies at Columbia University. A leading scholar of the Russian economy, she is the author of Conversations on Russia: Reform from Yeltsin to Putin, which was the Financial Times Pick of the Year in 2007, and coathor of Work Without Wages: Russia’s Non-Payment Crisis (MIT Press). Her most recent book, on the current economic crisis, is From Financial Crisis to Global Recovery.


“A provacative reading highlighting the hardships of the Russian path of transition. An invaluable tool for understanding how the Russian economy functioned as well as the challenges the reformers faced in the '90s.”
Dr. Yegor Gaidar, Director, Institute of the Economuy in Transition
“This is the first comprehensive analysis of the interrelated problems of the nonpayment of wages, the lack of bankruptcies, the rise of poverty, and the existence of barter in Russia's emerging market economy. The analysis is insightful and the findings are credible. The authors have provided us with an excellent understanding of the major set of problems facing Russia's economy.”
Jan Svenjnar, Everett E. Berg Professor and Executive Director of the William Davidson Institute, University of Michigan Business School
“The newspapers told us that, in tha chaod of transition, Russian firms had stopped paying taxes, wages, and suppliers' bills. I know I just nodded and thought no more about it. Desai and Idson study non-payment as a systematic manifestation: the (evil) empire strikes back. They find patterns and regularities, and implications for the transition process itself. This is a genuinley enlightening book.”
Robert M. Solow, Institute Professor Emeritus, MIT, and Nobel Laureate in Economics (1987)
“Work without Wages is a remarkably original contribution to the empirical economics of Russia's halting and painful transition to a market economy. Basing their arguments on new and detailed longitutde date, the authors chronicle the descent of the Russian economy from Stalinist central planning into patchwork of primitive labor market institutions, including barter. They also measure the econormous personal costs imposed on the politically weak, especially women, in the Russian labor force. This book is essential reading for all economists interested in the economics and politics of transition.”
Dale Jorgenson, Fredric Eaton Abbe Professor of Economics, Harvard University