HSE University Scholars Discuss the Fight Against Poverty
HSE University hosted a Russian-Chinese meeting on ‘Social policy as a tool for combating poverty and developing human capital’. Representatives of the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs, the World Bank, the Russian Pension Fund, the government of Tatarstan, and HSE University researchers evaluated the social policies of both countries, shared effective measures for combating and eliminating poverty.
The HSE Institute for Social Policy (ISP) — that researches and analyses social policy at the federal, regional and municipal levels — organized the conference. As noted by HSE Vice Rector and ISP Director Lilia Ovcharova, the university has been cooperating with the World Bank for 25 years on policy for the reduction of poverty and inequality.
According to Renaud Seligmann, the World Bank’s Country Director for the Russian Federation, HSE University scholars have produced a number of outstanding publications. ‘Through a variety of forums, they enable organizations and countries to share their experience in this field. We are grateful to our colleagues at HSE University for organizing this event and ensuring the participation of leading experts on this subject.’
Lilia Ovcharova told conference guests about Russia’s national development goals. She also noted the challenges the whole world faces and those that are particularly acute in Russia. ‘Economic growth is not intensive enough here, but we will solve this problem. Another major problem is income inequality, and the town and region in which a person lives is one of the contributing factors. These inequalities block development.’ According to the director of the Institute for Social Policy, the labour market also plays a major role in the problem.
What causes poverty in general? It correlates primarily to two labour market indicators: minimum wage and unemployment benefits
World Bank representative Ruslan Yemtsov compared the Russian and Chinese systems of social policy. ‘Our reforms in this area were largely inspired by the experience of our Chinese colleagues: both countries began implementing social policies very late and have accumulated a certain amount of experience and knowledge,’ he said. ‘There have been and continue to be many similar processes in both countries. The poverty level differs by region in both Russia and China and neither country settled on a definition of poverty quickly.’ At the same time, noted Ruslan Yemtsov, there are also differences. ‘For example,’ he said, ‘China has the “DiBao” targeted assistance programme. Russia does not yet have such a flagship programme.’ He expressed confidence that the two countries share great potential for the exchange of experience. ‘This applies particularly to the use of information technologies in combating poverty, adapting systems to local conditions, establishing a common national standard and raising the level of coordination in the regions and municipalities,’ he said.
Elena Petina, head of the Russian Pension Fund’s Department of Federal State Projects, told the Chinese participants how Russia uses information technology for social policy. Early last year, the agency launched the Unified State Social Security Information System (EGISSO), the concept for which was developed by the Higher School of Economics. Ms. Petina explained how EGISSO informs citizens of measures for preventing poverty. She also noted that the information system will expand in the future. ‘We are currently developing a guide to life situations and improving the social calculator — an aggregator that determines what assistance a person needs in different circumstances,’ she said.
Regional authorities also shared their experience. Irina Kuznetsova, head of the Tatarstan Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Protection’s Social Register Department spoke about the poverty prevention measures they employ. ‘When low wages are the cause of this problem, we advise employers to raise them to the average level. When necessary, we also send people for treatment for alcohol dependence, help individuals recover child support payments, and in rural areas, we support the development of farms.’
In turn, Weidong Li, head of the Chinese delegation and Deputy Director of the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs’ Center for the Monitoring and Verification of Low-Income Families, shared his country’s experience in creating the ‘DiBao’ targeted social assistance programme. ‘In China,’ he said, ‘approximately 70 million people receive various benefits. Our objective is to increase economic growth — which is the source of all social benefits. In addition, China must now improve the mechanisms for the work of government bodies. They should not simply sit and wait until citizens request assistance: they should seek out needy families themselves. It is a two-sided task,” he said.