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The new rules, signed into law by Belarus’ authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko this month, aim to “stimulate able-bodied citizens to engage in labour activity and fulfill their constitutional obligation to participate in financing state expenditures.”
Adults who have not paid income tax covering at least 183 days of employment per year will be fined. Failure to pay will be punishable by additional fines and ultimately by detention, followed by community service.According to the decree, certain categories of citizens are exempt, including students, parents caring for three or more children, minors, and people over the retirement age.
The decree smacks of Soviet times, when “parasitism” was a criminal offence known as “tuneyadstvo” which was based on the notion that “every able-bodied person has a duty to work.”
The Soviet Union made “parasitism” a criminal offense before the law was abolished in the 1990s by Mikhail Gorbachev. The law mostly targeted people working in private enterprises that were illegal under the Soviet regime, as well as prostitutes and political dissidents, such as Nobel Prize-winning poet Joseph Brodsky, who went on trial for “social parasitism” (“tuneyadstvo”) in the 1960s before being forced to emigrate.