Belarus Mojazarplata: providing independent salary information - May 10, 2010

Belarus Mojazarplata started in April their salary check, very fast after its operation started last year. Taisa Barandenka, team leader of the WageIndicator team in Minsk, explains how she made her project so successful.
Taisa Bandarenka, web manager Azerbaijna, Bela...
Taisa Bandarenka by Fantake via Flickr

The salary check of Mojazarplata.by, the WageIndicator project in Belarus, took off in April 2010, after the project got online less than a year before. Belarus has 3.1 million internet users on a population of 9.1 million. Mojozarplata.by got last month 35,000 visitors from Belarus itself and was able to collect within one year enough salary surveys from its visitors to launch its salary check, where Belarusians can get information about their salaries. Reason enough to sit down with the main architect of the project, Taisa Bandarenka, and ask her what made her site so successful in such a short time, despite the small base of internet users. 

From the feedback you got on your activities: what do you estimate your visitors are looking for? How is your audience reacting? 

Bandarenka: "In the first place in Belarus people are looking for information about wages. They are not looking for minimum wages, since you cannot survive on that anyway. For the employers it is just a bottom line of about 65 euro. In the second place is a section 'How to find a job'. People are looking for how to write a resume, to behave at an interview, negotiate a salary, etc. And I am sure especially for the last item our Salary Check will be very useful for both interviewers and interviewees. Most questions we get from young ladies relate to maternity leave income and other related issues." 

Who is mostly coming to your site and filling in the surveys? 

Bandarenka: "In the first place IT software engineers, then accountants, lawyers and marketing specialists. But obviously these are all professionals with better access to internet. But also it could be because they are mostly very young (23-30) and look for better jobs." 

Belarus is also part of a broader international labor exchange. Do you think the WageIndicator can play a role, or do international migrants get more info through agencies and other informal information channels? 

Bandarenka: "Well, actually this is true. Many young people still look for a job abroad and especially during summer. Russia, the US, Poland and Czech Republic are the most popular among them. Because Wage Indicator works in all these countries I assume it can play a role. Because our Salary Check is very new currently people hardly make decisions based on it. Most people still get information from agencies and other organisations for whom labor exchange is a business. From the fact that Wage Iindicator is a non-commercial organisation and provides salary information my guess is that it has very good perspectives to be a source of reliable information”. 

Have media already been using the Salary Check? 

Bandarenka: "As far as I know the state newspaper Respublika made a comparison of some professions with similar ones in Russia, Germany and the US. Actually we do not expect the usage by the media will grow right now. Editors usually complain they have not enough journalists and expect we will write stories for them. It should be also noted that not so many journalists can work with and interpret figures. We still investigate results of the salary check ourselves and will start writing about it. The most unexpected for us was to find out that maximum wage in job categories education, research, training was in some cases higher than we expected. These jobs are considered to be low paid in our part of the world. Maybe someone included in their salary also income from private lessons or bribes." 

One of the articles that the team in Minsk produced last year was What does a prostitute in Minsk earn, and that set the tone for a stream of salary and work-related news, hitting not only the website of Mojazarplata.by, but also by the websites of the print media in Belarus. Providing original news is one of your key activities? 

Bandarenka: "As you might note in Belarus and some of the other former soviet countries there is more editorial content than in any other Wage Indicator site. To create news and stories and export them to other big sites and portals has become our main strategy. Actually we have seized the opportunity that many sites in our part of the world do not create their own news but take those from other sites. We started with updating on Mojazarplata.by site content and sending press-releases weekly to a long mailing list. We still do it from time to time, but now we focus more on a short list of media who are really interested in our news and on our partners. Our most efficient cooperation is with a portal called TUT.by." 

How do you encourage people to fill in the surveys? 

Bandarenka: "Initially, until we built strong relations with other media, surveys did not come very fast. But this year it has increased and we have monthly around 1,500 surveys. Still it is not easy to convince people to share their salary data for many reasons. The survey is rather long and complicated for people. Some are rather suspicious to such projects or Internet. Therefore nearly in each story in the last paragraph we try to include a couple of sentences to motivate filling in the survey with a link in it. The best stories brought us 200-300 surveys for one day only." 

Is the website perceived as part of an international project, or more as a local initiative? 

Bandarenka: "Whenever I talk to someone or write press-releases I emphasize that Mojazarplata is part of Wage Indicator network. However from the feedback of the readers we can conclude that they identify us more as a local resource. Maybe this is due to our editorial content which if full of diverse local information."

You are also in charge of the Mojazarplata projects in other countries, like the Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. How are those projects going?

Bandarenka: "Unfortunately not as good as in Belarus, but I hope they catch up. It is not an easy project. And we have only one free lance web-manager in each country. Recruitment is crucial. She or he should be multifunctional and have management, marketing, PR and journalist skills, plus know of course Internet and at least basic English. Furthermore in Kazakhstan there are Internet restrictions and in Azerbaijan Internet is still underdeveloped as compared even to Belarus or Ukraine. Still we hope that the Salary Check for Ukraine will be done this summer and Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan in the autumn." 

What has she learned while working in the project, and what can be improved? 

Bandarenka: "People involved in the project should just communicate more with each other. Communication and asking questions are crucial for the success of projects which are very innovative for NIS but I am sure for Africa and Latin America, too. And if you would never ask, you will never know how it works. Web-managers should be aware of what and why they are doing this job. But first they should avoid saying: it is impossible in my country. It won’t work as our situation here is different." 

Go to our Salary Checks for other countries here.

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