The disastrous 1990s are now a generation ago, but the scars still remain. Only now has Russia eradicated extreme poverty, and 18.1 million people still live below the subsistence minimum. However, things are slowly improving.
On Friday, Russia told the UN it had “achieved the goal of eliminating extreme poverty,” and outlined the country’s successes.
Its review also highlights the strides it has made in reducing deprivation at all levels of severity, although it has fallen short of its own targets. In 2018, 12.6 percent of the population (18.4 million) lived below the subsistence level, and preliminary data for 2019 suggests the percentage has decreased to 12.3 percent (18.1 million). The goal set for 2019 was 12 percent.
“Subsistence level” is determined by the cost of living, including the price of food and mandatory payments and fees.
President Vladimir Putin has named poverty reduction as one of his priorities and previously instructed the government to achieve a two-fold reduction by 2024, setting the target at 6.6 percent.
The review also highlights Russia’s successes in reducing hunger across the country, noting that, in 2018, only 1.6 percent of those over the age of 18 suffered from malnutrition.
Earlier this year, the head of the Ministry of Labor, Anton Kotyakov, called poverty one of Russia’s most acute problems, and stated that the issue “needs to be put at the forefront of all our main areas of activity.”
Much of the country’s post-Soviet history has been blighted by economic difficulties. Less than a decade after the turmoil of the ’90s, the 2008 financial crash saw millions of Russians fall back into poverty, wiping out some of the gains from an eight-year boom. Just as that corner was turned, another recession followed in 2014, due to a combination of a collapse in oil prices and the fallout from the Ukraine crisis. Now, many fear the financial effects of the Covid-19 pandemic will put paid to the progress that’s been made.
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