The Soviet labor force in 1985 consisted of 137 million people, 85 percent of whom were on the payroll of state concerns. Some 16.8 million people worked in “public organizations” or “cooperatives,” but the distinction between these and state enterprises meant little. Most non-state employers were either collective farms or consumer cooperatives, both of which operated as adjuncts of the state sector. About 3.3 million citizens engaged in “individual labor activity.” The largest of this group was retirees and peasant women who worked private garden plots adjacent to their homes, produce from which could be sold in farmers’ markets in the cities for the going price. An estimated 29 percent of all employees toiled in manufacturing, 20 percent in agriculture and forestry, 9 percent in construction, 9 percent in transportation and communications, 8 percent in trade and consumer services, and 1 percent in miscellaneous pursuits. Another 24 percent worked in the “nonmaterial sphere” (mainly social services and public administration). Soviet law after 1930 did not recognize the existence of unemployment; everyone was obliged to work until the retirement age (56 for women; 60 for men) unless there were mitigating circumstances.
Wasteful use of personnel, limits on labor mobility, and a decline in the intake of new workers bred a countrywide labor shortage in the 1970s and 1980s.
Membership in an officially sponsored trade union was all but mandatory for Soviet workers. Ninety-eight percent belonged in the 1980s, the only exceptions being part-time employees. Unions were organized on the “production principle,” which gave one union a monopoly in each branch of the national economy. There were about 30 branch unions in the 1980s, overseen by an All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions. Strikes were forbidden, although walkouts did occur occasionally. The unions checked on worker grievances, helped determine wage rates, and monitored social insurance and pension schemes. "USSR" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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