The transition from the Soviet-planned central economy to the market economy became a painful transition for large groups. People who had become accustomed to being dependent on the state for their livelihood, housing and all forms of service suddenly lost a large part of their basic security. The standard of living fell sharply for millions of people and welfare was eroded. As the Russian economy improved after the turn of the millennium, living standards began to rise. Russia is today a safer and more comfortable country to live in for the majority population, but the gaps in society are large.
A small group has become much richer, while significant population groups are still living in difficult conditions. Analysts at the Moscow School of Economics estimate that the wealthiest three percent of Russian residents had nearly 90 percent of all financial assets in 2018. The differences are also great between different country ends and between city and sparsely populated areas.
- Countryaah Official Site: Official statistics for population in Russia, including population growth, density, and estimation in next 50 years.
The proportion of people living in poverty has decreased during the 2000s, partly as low and middle income have increased. The economic crisis in 2008 – 2009 was a severe blow to society when, among other things, unemployment skyrocketed, but the Russian government managed the crisis without making any cuts in social welfare. A new decline came in 2014 as a result of low oil prices and the Western countries’ sanctions in connection with the Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula. Prices of goods and services have steadily risen since then, while disposable income has remained at the same level or decreased. According to official statistics, in 2018, almost 13 percent lived below the poverty line, or 18.9 million people. This is a decrease compared to 2017 but an increase compared to the years 2010 – 2014. At the same time, the perceived poverty (the percentage of people who assess their standard of living as poor or very poor) has increased and is close to 30 percent. Among the poor, families with children dominate. An increasing problem is the high loan-to-value ratio of many households.
From a global perspective, the social protection network is quite far-reaching, but the compensation levels are low and do not cover the costs for which they are intended. Residents are entitled to, for example, sickness benefit, compensation for work injury, unemployment benefit, pregnancy benefit and parental benefit and there is a statutory minimum wage. To increase the birth rate, the government has introduced special one-off grants of approximately SEK 66,000 to families who raise a second child, amounting to approximately SEK 66,000. Parental leave can be used by the mother, father or other relatives who take care of the child. Parental allowance is paid until the child has reached the age of 3.
The most controversial reform of recent years has meant raising the retirement age in 2018. For men it was raised from 60 to 65 years and for women from 55 to 60 years. Many Russians believe that the increase is unfounded, taking into account the average life expectancy, especially for men. The government, for its part, believes that the average life expectancy in the country is increasing, pointing out that the Pension Authority cannot cover all pension costs and is forced to borrow money from the state budget each year. It may also be added that many Russians retire earlier than the statutory age, such as those living in polar regions, certain officials and other occupational groups, women who have given birth to five children, parents of children with disabilities and more. Some Russians retire prematurely because they are entitled to a so-called disability pension. Those who receive disability pensions are called invalids. About 8 percent of the population has this status. The term “invalid” has been interpreted much further in Russia than we are used to in Sweden. People with certain chronic but treatable illnesses (for example, asthma and diabetes) or people who have suffered a work injury that results in a decrease in work ability have previously been classified as invalids, but the requirements have now been tightened. Today,for example, diabetics cannot receive disability status. Disability pension can be temporary or permanent.
Health care is not functioning satisfactorily, although funding has increased during the 2000s. While the residents of the big cities do not have any major problems with getting a doctor’s time, the situation is more strained in sparsely populated areas. In general, it can be said that the number of health care facilities is decreasing, the salaries of the healthcare staff are low and there is a shortage of staff, especially in rural areas. Government healthcare is free of charge, but private healthcare is becoming more and more common as it is considered to be of better quality. Private healthcare is sometimes offered as a benefit to employees at large companies.
Following a sharp deterioration in public health during the 1990s, the situation has improved in some areas, but some concerns remain. Mortality rates are high among men of working age. The causes are mainly poor living habits in the form of high alcohol consumption and smoking, fatty and vitamin-poor diets as well as unsafe living conditions and inadequate health care.
The government has launched an anti-alcohol campaign which will result in a halved consumption by 2020. The stores are no longer allowed to sell alcohol at night and it is forbidden to advertise alcohol in print media and on the internet. Alcohol consumption in Russia has steadily declined since the 1990s.
Other drugs also represent a major societal problem. Every quarter of Russia’s detainees are convicted of drug offenses and the risk of recidivism in these cases is high. Drug consumption is increasing and is closely linked to the HIV / AIDS epidemic, as many newly infected (just over 43 percent) are drug addicts. One percent of the population, 1.4 million people, are estimated to be HIV infected. However, the authorities close their eyes to the extent of the problem and do not inform about the spread of infection. There is also no sexual education in the school. The issue is not debated because there is a general ornamental approach to issues relating to sex. Instead, it is common to see marital fidelity and traditional values as the solution to the problem.
Apart from the drug crime, crime in Russia in general has fallen sharply since the turn of the century. In 2019 it was reported that the number of detainees is the lowest since the fall of the Soviet Union.
It is reported that prostitution has become more common since the economic crisis in 2014. Selling sex as well as organizing prostitution activities is classified as a so-called administrative wrongdoing in Russia which can be punished with fines. Violence in close relationships is a serious social problem that the state does not take seriously. In 2017, the punishment for minor abuse was mitigated so that those who are convicted of violence in close relationships can now only be sentenced to fines. Nonprofits and Russia’s Human Rights Ombudsman have proposed that a special law be adopted with horizontal measures against violence in close relationships, but no legislative proposal exists yet.
A particular problem is the high suicide rate, which is one of the highest in the world. According to a UN report, at least 1,500 teenagers take their lives each year in Russia, and the dark figure is believed to be large. Deaths due to traffic accidents are steadily declining but are still higher than in Sweden.
Russia was one of the first countries to introduce female suffrage (1917) and the employment rate of women during the Soviet era was high. With the revolving history of Russia in the 20th century (two revolutions, political repression and two world wars that killed many men’s lives), women were allowed to take on the role of family provider. Many women still have this role. Contributing causes are higher mortality and substance abuse problems (see above) and the large number of divorces that lead to the woman basically taking care of the children alone. While the women have taken on the traditionally male role, they are also expected to take care of the home and the children. This is why children usually live with their mother after the divorce.
According to Grant Thornton International’s 2017 report on female representation in the business world, Russia ranks first in terms of the number of women in managerial positions within companies (47 percent). The corresponding figure for Germany is 18 percent. Although women often make a career, it appears that they hit the glass ceiling. There is a statutory list of professions that women cannot hold, such as train drivers, because they are considered to harm women’s health.
Although there are laws designed to protect minorities, they often have a weak position in Russia. Discrimination occurs and can be punished as a crime or an administrative offense, but there is no law that gives discriminated persons the right to claim compensation. The rights of LGBTQ people are greatly curtailed, in large part due to a notorious law that prohibits so-called gay propaganda. Gay couples are not allowed to marry in Russia. Particularly serious is the situation in the Caucasian Republic of Chechnya, where it is stated that several gay men have been tortured to death. An April 2019 opinion poll showed that 47 percent of Russians believe that gay people should have the same rights as the rest of the population, which is the highest figure since 2005.
The situation is difficult even for people with disabilities who are often unable to move freely due to physical inaccessibility. In Russia, there are still large facilities for people with disabilities and others who for some reason cannot take care of themselves (for example, older people). These establishments often accommodate hundreds of people and non-profit organizations are fighting for a reform that will allow the establishment of group housing with home-like conditions and a limited number of residents.
FACTS – SOCIAL CONDITIONS
Infant Mortality: 6 per 1000 births (2018)
Proportion of population with access to clean water: 96.4 percent (2015)
Proportion of the population having access to toilets: 90.5 percent (2017)
Public expenditure on health care as a percentage of GDP: 5.6 percent (2015)
Public expenditure on health care per person: US $ 469 (2016)
Proportion of women in parliament: 16 percent (2018)
Police violence against demonstrations
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Several small liberal parties outside Parliament are joined by the Alliance Solidarity. At the same time, right-wing liberals form the alliance of Pravoje Delo.
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Dmitry Medvedev president
Dmitry Medvedev wins the presidential election with over 70 percent of the vote. He appoints former president Vladimir Putin as prime minister.