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HSE University Re-Launches Monitoring Study of the Population’s Social Well-Being

HSE University Re-Launches Monitoring Study of the Population’s Social Well-Being

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The HSE Institute for Social Policy is renewing its monitoring of the population’s socio-economic status and social well-being. The first issue includes a 2019 summary and short analysis of the trends related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Experts have concluded that many unfavourable trends were not overcome last year and that the current crisis will worsen the situation.

Experts from the Institute for Social Policy believe that it is essential to analyse the situation and trends with the country’s living standards today in order to understand what drives attitudes in Russian society when problems unexpectedly arise. ‘In this context, we believe there is a need to track living standards dynamics in Russia,’ the report authors said.

One of the key trends is the fact that last year, the previously established negative trends were not overcome as it relates to the population’s real disposable incomes. The preliminary data show that they grew by less than 1% a year. The unfavourable dynamics of average incomes were not accompanied by considerable changes in their differentiation.

Purchasing power remained weak in 2019, leading to a slowdown in the growth of consumer prices. December 2019 inflation as compared to December 2018 was 3%, which is considerably lower than the 4% target level set by the Bank of Russia. Consumer spending patterns are still dominated by expenses on current consumption: four fifths are spent on goods and services, about one sixth on mandatory payments and only a few percent on savings.

Buying on credit is widespread among the population, but even more widespread is the notion that it is better not to buy on credit. People’s attitudes towards consumer loans is closely related to their general assessment of changes in living standards: increasing confidence in the future of people’s own well-being promotes borrowing activity.

Public attitudes remain calm, but generally pessimistic today

Analysts from the HSE Institute for Social Policy say that based on the published data, the previously formed socio-economic trends held steady in the first two months of 2020 as it relates to the population’s incomes, consumer inflation and inflation expectations, purchasing power, borrowing and savings behaviour, public attitudes, and expectations regarding the future.

‘The same can be said about public attitudes: the surveys have confirmed slightly positive attitudes, which, as in previous years, were based on negative adaptation mechanisms; hence, they’re not a forecaster or source of positive change,’ the report says.

© iStock

Since the middle of March, the situation in households has begun to change rapidly. The introduction of a self-isolation regime on March 26 marked the beginning of a strict limitation of consumer demand. Despite the fact that the self-isolation regime has been defined by authorities as non-working days with paid leave, decreasing incomes and dismissals are obviously inevitable, the researchers say.

The experts believe that the list of anti-crisis measures will expand. They argue that state funding needs to be provided to support state salaries for employees who are temporarily not working. There also needs to be adoption of solutions to support companies from the most affected industries and large-scale support for the unemployed.

‘We are going to see the scale of the latest economic crisis in some kind of distant future, the horizon of which largely depends on the epidemic curve not only in Russia, but globally. Similarly, we will be able to assess the effectiveness of the protection policies that have been implemented. Furthermore, restoration policies will be needed, since exiting the current extraordinary regime will not be easy. The effectiveness of the latter policies will also be the subject of future research,’ the authors conclude.

See the full monitoring study (in Russian)

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