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2 May, 2009 05:10

Unemployment fears spur Russians to use hobbies as income

Craftwork and painting are traditional pastimes, but in the current economic crisis they can also be an alternative source of income. Some Russians are quite successful using their hobbies to earn a living.

Aleksandra Kulakova moved to the Moscow region just before the credit crunch. Having failed to find a job, she turned to one of her hobbies as a means of making a living. Alexandra draws, paints and sews, and then sells her products over the internet.

“I’ve been doing handmade stuff since early childhood. My grandmother taught me. Now it’s hard to find a job in the town where I live. The only offer I received is at a meat-packing plant. But doing handmade stuff at home brings me just about the same money,” Aleksandra said, explaining her choice.

In the first six weeks on her own, Aleksandra made around $600. A good income, she says, and without too much effort.

“The main advantage is that I can work at home. I plan my day and I don’t have to depend on anybody,” she says.

Natalya Daderkina from Tver went even further. A professional mathematician, she opened a little workshop. Several women create soft furnishings, fridge magnets, carnival costumes and many other small things. Natalya is one of the few who says that the financial crisis has brought something positive:

“I think I will be able to turn it into my own business. If it can make my living, then why not? It’s interesting. And I’ve already learnt that it can bring enough money.”

Selling private collections, cooking dinners for offices, knitting and sewing – Russians who lost their jobs in the last six months are looking for their own ways to survive the financial turmoil. Official figures suggest 2.28 million people are currently unemployed in Russia, while the head of the Federal Statistics Service stated this week the real unemployment level stands at 7.5 million as of the end of March, and the job market is getting tougher.

Luybov Rudina works at one of Moscow job centers. She says some people are so desperate that they would accept just about any job.

“We do have cases when people are applying for what they have never done. I think any sane person who has no money to pay for a flat, to buy food; to care for the family would take any job,” she said.

Experts say the credit crunch spurs skills people have never used before. However, for some it’s not that easy.

“It’s a great psychological problem. A fired CEO wouldn’t work as a janitor. And I believe this is a temporary problem. As soon as the credit crunch comes to an end people will return to doing what they’re good at,” commented Sergey Smirnov from the Institute of Social Politics.

Aleksandra Kulakova and Natalya Daderkina would disagree with that. For them the crisis could be a good kickstart for a new career. However, what may be good for them is unlikely to solve the mass unemployment problem, which requires more than just individual effort.