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Work and Consumption in Russian Youth Life: Comparative Analysis of Rural and Urban Experiences

Priority areas of development: sociology

The goals of the research are the study of the attitudes to work and consumption and to the related practices of the young people in Russia living outside the big cities in the small towns and in the rural area; the comparison of the attitudes and practices of the rural and urban young people. 


The main method of the data collection was in-depth biographical interview with young people from Leningrad region. The additional method was the interviews with experts which were used to justify the choice of localities for the studying and to reconstruct the socio-economic situation in the selected territories. The analyses of the data was realized using the coding procedure  in the program QDA Miner Lite - Free Qualitative Data Analysis Software.

Empirical base of research:

The empirical base of the project consists from 59 biographical interviews with young people living and working in small towns and rural areas of Leningrad region. The respondents are employed in different fields and have different education levels. There are the same proportion of men and women (29 and 30 respectively), and also there are two age groups of 20-25 years old (31 interviews) and 30-35 years old (28 interviews). Informants are living in three localities: Luzhskiy district (21 people); Priozerskiy district (18 people); Volkhovskiy district (20 people).

The method of the expert interview was used also as additional method in the research. Altogether 8 expert interviews were gathered with specialists of youth work and labor market of Leningrad region.  The sample includes the heads of the youth and sport centers, the stuff of the regional centers for youth policy, the heads of the employment centers and human resource departments, the stuff of the nongovernmental organizations working on the regional level.

In order to conduct the comparative analyses of the rural and urban young people practices the data of the project realized in 2014 (the collection of the 60 in-depth interviews with young people living in St. Petersburg) was also used.       

Results of research:

The empirical analyses of the interviews with experts and rural youth demonstrated that Leningrad region in the subjective evaluations of the respondents is the heterogenic space. The districts of the Leningrad region in the narratives of its inhabitants are articulated differently as the local identities and place attachments (the most successful in the perception of young people is the Luzhskiy district).

The perception of the work by the rural youth is defined by the same trends which are typical to the youth labor market in Russia or in Europe. But concerning the value system of the rural youth we can state that traditional values of family, health, and wealth are dominated. And work has the instrumental value as the tool to reach the certain level of wealth and satisfaction of the consumption needs. This situation differs from the urban youth attitudes. Urban young people are quite oriented to the wealth but also to the interesting job.

The special value among job characteristics has the stability in the employment and in the income. Rural youth takes into account all risks of the local labor market and realizes the strategy of the multiple employment what is also typical for the urban labor market. 

The job satisfaction depends on three main factors: the work regimes, the stuff and amount of the salary. Analyzing the opportunities for the career development in the rural area we have to consider the key characteristics of the rural labor market: the jobs deficit and the strong local social networks.

Respondents stated that they didn’t have serious difficulties with the finding of the first job but they face subjective and objective barriers which hind the further career development. There are four main typical career trajectories which are followed by rural youth: (1) “building organizational career”, (2) the path “taking available place” (temporizing strategy: “I live for today”), (3) the path of the “dynamic horizontal career” (multiple employment, frequent change of jobs), (4) the path “development of own business”.          

The analyses of the financial behavior demonstrated that the budget of the young villager consists mainly from the official salary. Beside this young men or women always have opportunity for the additional part time job and additional income. Young people aged 30-35 are less involved in the credit practices than young people aged 20-25. But both age groups do not like to borrow money. The expenses for leisure and sport are perceived mainly as extra spendings.

The analyses of the consumption practices of the rural youth revealed that the geographical closeness of St. Petersburg and, consequently, the availability of consumer infrastructure and urban patterns of consumption largely influence the lifestyle of rural youth of the Leningrad region. Among the important factors of the rur/ and suburbanization were identified: the mobility of the boundaries between ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ youth; the penetration of high technologies and new media in everyday life; development of quasi-urban lifestyle; the keeping relevance of close social world. The analysis allowed to identify also four consumer styles: familial, status-oriented, individualistic, conformist.

Rural young people implement in their understanding of the success the traditionalist model in the sphere of consumption, family, and work (financial success, health, happy family). Reflexive choice of biographical project is typical only for those young men and women who are more focused on themselves and their own strengths than on sources of the local community.   

The analysis of migration plans of youth demonstrated that young people in the Leningrad region is heterogeneous in their mobility experience, but most of them are still "in motion". Some of the respondents after some movements returned to their villages or districts. The return may be caused by a variety of reasons, including negative experiences of working, living away from their parents and dissatisfaction with urban living conditions. The theme of departure, however, is sensitive, and “characterization” of the expatriates and the remainders is common subject of moralization for both groups.

According to the research results, the modern village is a mixed space in which multiple logics coexist. It still reproduces the tradition, structure and stability as important values and ways of organizing everyday life. However, increasingly blurred boundaries with the city, reducing symbolic and territorial distances, developing market relations and flows of mobility problematize and override the "traditional" patterns.

Level of implementation, recommendations on implementation or outcomes of the implementation of the results

The results of the study allowed to formulate several recommendations that can be implemented at the level of youth and educational policy of the Russian Federation, at the level of municipalities and employment centers, and in the practice of private companies:

  • It is recommended to adopt the experience of more successful municipalities (districts) and try to disseminate it to the less successful, of course, according with infrastructural, institutional and territorial contexts.
  • It is recommended for administrative structures, seeking to develop the region's human capital, to take a more differentiated approach to young people and to be more sensitive to the specificity of their feelings of attachment to place of living and to transform the "hopeless" embeddedness to the rational-pragmatic one.
  • It is recommended for business leaders, interested in young employees, to bring their wages to the level of income at similar positions in the city, in order to attract more young people and increase their local embeddedness.
  • In order to increase chances for successful employment and successful career, young people should have diverse opportunities for further training (including second postgraduate education). It is recommended initially to prepare them for these opportunities, taking into account the fact that young people are actively involved in learning and ready to delve in it.
  • It is also needed to continue developing programs of support for youth entrepreneurship in rural areas and to create infrastructure for development of small business (and to raise awareness about them).
  • It is also recommended to plan in advance the development of consumer and recreational infrastructure in the rural area. The needs of youth are satisfied for now, but they can grow under the influence of global trends. 


Омельченко Е. Л., Сабирова Г. А., Крупец Я. Н. Социальная мобильность молодежи в фокусе тройной рефлексии // ИНТЕРакция. ИНТЕРвью. ИНТЕРпретация. 2015. № 10. C. 9-25. 
undefined., Krupets Y., Nartova N., Sabirova G. Russian Youth in the Labour Market: ‘Portfolioability’ as the New Desire and Demand // Studies of Transition States and Societies. 2016. Vol. 8. No. 3. P. 29-44. 
Goncharova N., Krupets Y., Nartova N., Sabirova G. Russian Youth in the Labour Market: ‘Portfolioability’ as New Desire and Demand // Studies of Transition States and Societies. 2016. Vol. 8. No. 3. P. 29-44. 
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