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  • Second Plenary Session of the XIV HSE April Conference: The Social Sphere in Search of Money and Ideas

Second Plenary Session of the XIV HSE April Conference: The Social Sphere in Search of Money and Ideas

The second day of the XIV HSE April Conference started with a plenary session on ‘Institutions and New Social Policy’. Problems of education, healthcare, and the labour market were discussed by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets, HSE Rector Yaroslav Kuzminov, the Russian Minister of Education and Science Dmitri Livanov, Professor Simon Marginson of the University of Melbourne, and Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov.

Olga Golodets
Olga Golodets
Priorities in social policy

Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets who is responsible for social issues in the government, spoke about the Russian cabinet’s priorities in social policy. The first is to develop the labour market. ‘A lot of negative phenomena have accumulated in this area’, Deputy Minister Golodets told the audience, ‘In Russia there are about 86 million people of working age, and only 48 million of them work in sectors that are clear to us. We do not understand where and what the others do.’ When the ‘shadow’ sector is so huge, social costs are under-funded. The second priority is to improve people’s work qualifications. Russia lags behind the global labour market by over 20 years in terms of the level of qualifications of employees in most sectors. A solution to this problem will be outlined in the new law on professional standards. To reach international standards and professional requirements, we need to standardize them with the help of the professional community. Today about 8,000 professions exist in Russia officially. This number will be cut to about 800.


We need to change our lifestyle

Russia falls behind most developed countries in its average life expectancy. In Russia it is 70 years, while, for example, in neighbouring Finland it is 80. Deaths from heart disease, the leading cause of death in Russia, are decreasing, but the number of deaths caused by road accidents, alcohol poisoning, and suicide is consistently high. The Deputy Prime Minister said we need public health campaigns to raise awareness about lifestyle.


Science needs investment

Dmitri Livanov
Dmitri Livanov
Russia could strengthen its positions on the global market of technology and innovation, as well as in terms of its academic results, but Russian Minister of Education and Science Dmitri Livanov emphasized that many things need to be changed to make it happen. In terms of public spending on science Russia is among the top ten countries, and by volume of state investment in innovation it is equal to France and Great Britain. ‘But can you see the results of this innovation anywhere?’, asked Livanov, rhetorically. ‘The existing science infrastructure is not aimed at receiving considerable competitive results’, said the minister. Today government spending on science is 1,12% of GDP. The minister explained the proposed new model of science funding: ‘We need to implement a model where the state spends money supporting researchers and teams of researchers not organisations and institutions.’


Budget money for infrastructure

Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, who is responsible for economic rather than social problems, spoke about the problems of economic growth in the country. He reassured the audience that the government sees both the risks of a conservative budget policy and the problems of its softening. Mr Shuvalov believes that in the current ‘hard situation’, without stimulus budget spending, there is a risk of falling into recession. But stimulus budget spending is problematic because of the lack of adequate mechanisms. The government is ready to invest in large projects, but only on terms of revocable crediting. But there are no projects for it. Igor Shuvalov admitted that the main reason is the high price of credits. At the same time, Deputy Prime Minister Shuvalov values the role of the expert economic community highly and he assured the audience that the government pays careful attention to the experts’ work.


Education and medicine suffer from underfunding

Yaroslav Kuzminov
Yaroslav Kuzminov
‘The state underfunds the spheres of education and healthcare’, claimed HSE Rector Yaroslav Kuzminov in his speech. For example, Russia spends 3.6% of GDP on healthcare, while Italy spends 5.1%, and the USA – 16%. Russia spends 4.1% of GDP on education, and by 2015 this indicator will fall to 3.5%.

‘The government is again ready to reform the social sphere based on the principles of lack of funding, but we mustn’t do this’, Kuzminov insists. ‘If the state doesn’t increase funding of educational and healthcare systems, then it is necessary to introduce a system of co-payments for those who can pay, and compensational co-payments for those who can’t. But these things are not being done’. Kuzminov explained that the middle class could carry part of the load of co-funding in the social sphere, especially as today about 30% of Russians can be considered middle class, and by 2020 their number will grow to 35%. De facto the social sphere is partially not for free. But the illegal status of this situation hurts the most unprotected part of the population most of all.

At the same time, the fact that parents were ready to pay in part for their children’s education was one of the reasons for the successful growth of the post-Confucian model of education in Asia, Professor Simon Marginson of the University of Melbourne told the audience. In his presentation he predicted that, ‘the future of global knowledge will come from East Asia with the spread of the post-Confucian model of education’.

Maria Selivanova, specially for the HSE news service

Photos by Nikita Benzoruk

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