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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

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?????? ????????: salary paid off the books

Now that summer's over, it's time to get down to work. If you are back at your desk and realizing that you're putting in too many hours for too little pay -- providing maximum bang for minimum bucks -- it's time for a job search. The only problem is understanding what employers are talking about at the job interview (?????????????), and then figuring out how to translate it to dear old Dad back home when he asks you serious questions about your compensation package.

Earning money is linguistically easy: ????????????. The first step to greater prosperity is finding out the average salary for your job. In the old days, you didn't even have to ask: Soviet salaries and wages were so standardized, you just had to ask the job title to know the salary. These days, with salary differentials as wide as the Volga, asking how much someone earns is no longer polite. You might try: ???? ?? ??????, ??????? ?? ?????????????? (Do you mind telling me how much you earn? Literally, "If it's not a secret ...") If the answer is a horrified stare, try: ????????, ??????????, ???????? ???????? ??? ????? ????????? ? ????? ?????. (Could you tell me the salary range for this job in your company?) If the answer is: ??? ?????? ???? ??? ???? ???????? ? ????????????? (The job pays just enough to keep bread on the table, literally, "for survival"), consider another job or another company.

Salaries are ?????, ?????????? ????? or ????????. They also come in different colors: You may be offered ?????, ????? or ?????? ???????? (literally, white, gray and black salary). White is salary that is above board, officially declared, and subject to all taxes and contributions to pension and other funds. Black is salary that is paid in cash, not officially declared, with no tax or compensation fund payments. Gray is simply a mix of the two colors, so a small amount is paid officially, and a larger part is paid in cash.

The problem with these three categories is how to translate them. My financial and legal advisers in the United States call black salary "salary paid under the table" or "salary paid off the books." But what Russians call white salary is an unmarked category in U.S. practice: It's the norm, and as the norm, it doesn't have a distinguishing name. With white and gray salaries, you need to resort to descriptive translations. ??????????? ?? ?????? ????????????? ???????????? ? ? ????????? ?????????, ??? ???????? "?????." (At almost every job interview, they told me proudly and with great ceremony that they declared all salaries in full and paid all the requisite taxes and compensation fund contributions.) ? ??????? ????? ????????. (I received part of my salary off the books.)

When a company decides to observe the law, in slang they are said to "turn white." ????? ?????? ??????? ?????????. (The company decided to go totally legal and pay all salaries officially.) If you are looking at the want ads, these law-abiding companies are sometimes described as conforming to the Labor Code. ?????? ?????????? ?? ??. (Full compliance with the Russian Labor Code.)

In addition to ??????????? ????? (base salary), you may be offered all kinds of additional payments, like ?????? ??????????? (overtime) or ?????????????? ??????? (wage and salary supplements). The latter category includes ???????, which can be a compensation for dangerous work or night shifts (hardship pay), ???????? (executive bonuses), and ?????? (bonuses). There also might be ??????????????? ??????? (compensation and reimbursement payments) that include ???????? (per diems), ??????? ?? ?????? (travel reimbursement) or ?????? ????? (a housing allowance).

If you are offered this, you can tell dear old Dad: I got a fully loaded salary with great fringe benefits. You should then arrange interviews for the rest of us.

Michele A. Berdy is a Moscow-based interpreter and translator.