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Non-economic sources of Russian markets dynamics

Priority areas of development: sociology
2020

Goal of research

To identify the non-economic sources of Russian markets dynamics and further to conceptualize them using the newest accomplishments in the field of economic sociology.

Methodology

In the present research, a wide set of methodological tools to the analysis of qualitative data was applied, including discourse analysis; grounded theory with a focus on abductive analysis; frame analysis, retrospective method, historical method of ‘incorporated comparison etc. The quantitative data analysis was based on the Age-Period-Cohort model, correlation and regressive analysis and others.

Empirical base of research

The empirical database of the study included: the Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey - Higher School of Economics (RLMS-HSE), Factiva database, containing texts of publication in the press and transcripts of television news programmes; information resources “Integrum” and “Medialogia”; monitoring projects “Financial behaviour of Russian citizens” and “Relations between retailers and their suppliers on modern consumer markets”.

Results of research

In the field of research on millennials

By the end of the 2000s, economic growth was replaced by a prolonged decline in the Russian economy. Simultaneously, there has been the mass distribution of new digital technologies and user services that have made radical changes to the daily lives of many. The emergence of this new situation has prompted us to identify in the generation of millennials a specific, younger group – millennials “3S” who entered their period of adulthood and formal years of growing up during this period.

The analysis of empirical data shows that millennials “3S” predictably started using new digital technologies in their early adolescence and are more likely to use them today. They are better educated and have more educated parents. Millennials “3S” postpone important decisions that are associated with adulthood – marriage, first pregnancy and having children, employment in the labor market. Many of the identified differences are substantial, statistically significant, and remain stable when controlling for many variables and bringing the adjacent generations to the similar median age. In most of the cases examined, the gaps within the generation of millennials are observed along with the intergenerational differences – between the reformed generation and the older millennials, which confirms both of our initial hypotheses.

In the field of non-cash payment forms

In the new wave of the survey of the financial behavior of the population of the Russian Federation, an attempt was made to obtain new cluster groups, different from the previous observations. For this, the paradigm of Bayesian statistics was used, which allows to obtain a higher accuracy in correlating the respondent with his cluster group. The use of the Metropolis-Coupled Monte Carlo simulation algorithm allowed us to obtain 4 stable cluster groups of similar fullness in terms of the number of respondents. At the substantive level, new “typical” portraits of EPS consumers with different levels of personal trust and trust in political and economic institutions were established. The practice of their consumption of EPS is generally correlated with age and socio-economic characteristics. But at the same time, when analyzing general trends, it was found that the structure of EPS in terms of the presence / absence of such among Russians, as well as the frequency and purposes of use, did not change significantly compared to similar indicators in 2019. An insignificant change in the share of users of electronic wallets, contactless payment systems and Internet banking was recorded. However, the structure of consumer practices in general has not changed. As a result, we can state two points: a separate analysis of the factors associated with the lack of desire of a number of individuals to use new digital banking technologies shows more their weak interest and willingness to use them, which can be correlated with the TAM and TPB theories. The second important point is that the COVID-19 pandemic, apparently, may not significantly transform the practices and principles of organizing electronic payment transactions, and therefore this point needs to be analyzed in further research. The current wave of observations has a special analytical status, the impossibility of correlating the results with previous periods. Therefore, the analysis of the specifics and determination of factors influencing the decision to use bank cards and other forms of EPS during a pandemic will be further considered.

In the field of research on the artificial intelligence technologies market

The research showed that the AI technology market in Russia is in its infancy. The technologies have started to spread, and about a tenth of Russian industrial companies already use them. Although the spread of these technologies is small, findings estimated that they have a positive impact on business development prospects. Even though the AI technology market is developing in Russia and the world, and it is projected to grow rapidly in the future, due to the specifics of the created product, it contains some internal “hindrances for its progress”. First of all, the uniqueness and inalienability of the created product from the producer leads to the restriction of real demand, as there is a potential danger of the “leakage” of the solution to the competitor, who can use it for a significantly lower price. As a result, interested consumer companies have particular incentive to create internal units specializing in the development of AI technologies for the needs of their company. Analysis of the survey data of CEOs of the Russian industrial enterprises confirmed that they have concerns about becoming dependent on external technology developers.

However, in Russia, in addition to common problems, the development of the AI technology market faces its own specific challenges. According to the research, this market is quite sensitive to the external environment in which its participants are located. For instance, having the current level of corruption in relations with the state and market actors, it is difficult to expect the successful spread of AI technologies. It is also obvious that the strong pressure of the law enforcement system on business does not create favorable conditions for the development of this market. That was confirmed by a comparative analysis of the differences in the characteristics of industrial enterprises that use AI technologies and those that do not use them. Moreover, the current political situation (the political system) in the country and the state of national economy appear to be a powerful constraint to market development. Despite the fact that Russia does not have working regulations on AI yet, the influence of the state on the market is obvious. And the existing distrust of the state and the unwillingness of companies to participate in the development of formal rules questions the effectiveness of the elaborated and future laws.

Foreign policy tensions create a certain negative attitude towards companies from Russia, which is an obstacle to working with foreign clients. Since the economic situation in the country produces less favorable conditions, software companies often decide not to work in the Russian jurisdiction, going outside its limits physically or legally and leaving the development staff in the country. “The production of a good” in this industry is highly mobile: all the development and communication can be performed online. For AI technology developers it is much easier than, for example, for traditional industry to remove the business to another country. Therefore, the “push factors” have a greater effect on the “flee” of the companies outside of Russia as they search for the better terms, as well as hope to avoid the contact with the state, to which there is no trust.

To mitigate the potential negative effects on both global and national level, it is necessary to develop an effective policy to stimulate the development of the AI technology market.

In the field of research on the politics of consumption

Based on the qualitative data, we analyzed how the consumers perceive their position in the market system and how it affects their behavior.

The starting point for interpretation is the presumption of guilt of the seller – “everyone knows that our prices are inflated”. Consumers perceive the market space as a field where they are not in the most favorable position. For less fortunate informants, consumer vulnerability becomes a formula of market subordination. However, the increase in income does not relieve the pressure, although the nature of stress situations is changing. Consumers describe the relationship with the seller in terms of conflict or rivalry: their aim is to decode the seller's manipulations. We do not claim that ordinary shopping in the store is seen as a battle. However, consumer vigilance remains as a background mode of the market space perception.

It has been found that the consumer experience is closely related to the political experience. A protective function is reserved for the state: it is accountable for the vulnerable consumer. In the narratives a request for different formats of assistance can be identified: from educational work in favor of the consumer to punitive and controlling function. The regulator can help to make independent choices, and can punish the guilty. We find it plausible that informants with a vulnerable financial situation and socialized in Soviet times can have a more radical request for the state intervention – “punishment of the guilty”. But the demand for state assistance appears in interviews even with those who were not socialized during the Soviet era, and is expressed in anticipation of inspections and control over the market.

Theoretically, the category of the “seller's guilt” we conceptualize as consumer cynicism. The cynical mode of perception includes suspicion and frustration, appearing in a situation of power imbalance. Cynicism reflects accepting one’s “defeat” and acknowledging the seller's advantage. At the same time, consumer cynicism acts as a defense mechanism: the awareness of one’s vulnerability provokes the micro-tactics of individual resistance. The routine taming of market forces allows for relative autonomy in the situation of subordination. Efforts to account for their spending and savings demonstrate the traits of self-control and self-responsibility.

In the field of research on the labour values

The most interesting question touches upon the direction of the relationship between the choice of employment type and labour values. In the scientific literature there remain the discussions on the complex interaction between the values and behaviors of the individual. It is likely that different values perform differently. In some cases (e.g. self-fulfillment), it is clear that the commitment to certain values drives the choice of the employment type. In other cases (e.g. fairness), the reverse hypothesis that the transition to a new employment status changes the attitudes and beliefs of the employee seems to be more plausible. It can be confirmed on the panel data when the repetitive measurements for the same respondents are available.

Identifying the relationship between labour values and employment type helps to comprehend some of the reasons for choosing a certain type of employment, possible dissatisfaction of the employee with the position in the workplace and desire to change the job. The results of the study can be useful for developing corporate personnel policies of the enterprise as well as social labour and employment policies.

In the field of applying the semantic network approach

The study considers the application of the semantic network approach for the aims of structural analysis of texts, particularly on economic topics. The main unit of analysis was “economic information”. This can be understood as complex terms, processes, elements of mass media, which largely determine the consumer and financial decisions of ordinary people. Since not all the people have specialized knowledge of economics, agents in mass media can offer different ways of reconstructing the story of economic events, while adapting both the text and the associations necessary to “remind” the reader of recent events and circumstances. The analyzed case-studies included two texts of the same author, written at four-year intervals. And four years later, a slight change of strategy was identified, from a more general, “objective” vision (with an emphasis on “inflation”) to a contextual pair of “inflation – price growth”. This can have a positive impact on the quality of news content acquisition.

The main thesis is that network analysis is a “hybrid” method of analyzing textual information. There are studies demonstrating the active use of the semantic network approach as a leading method. In sociological research it is possible not only to study the structural positions of individuals in one group, but also to determine power relations, density of the entire network of interactions and much more.

However, some significant limitations identified during a small experiment should be noted. The researcher needs to determine in advance the focus of the analysis: either to focus on each news text separately, or to conduct cross-text analysis by combining all the collected texts in the one large semantic network, which can potentially lead to a mix of several approaches. If the semantic network approach is used in combination with other methods, especially the content analysis methodology, the approach under consideration should be specified by its role depending on the type of study. When it comes to quantitative content analysis, it probably makes sense to use it after the semantic network method procedure in order to have a “confirmatory” view of the identified concepts. A special question considers the discourse analysis, which will require additional skills of computer processing of texts, as well as combination with content analysis tools (Atlas.Ti). The quantitative data can be introduced into regression, but in this case the model specifications must be given the particular attention. The secondary limitation of the semantic network approach is the binding to a number of existing software.

In the field of TV channels policy

The policy of TV channels, the specifics of their funding, as well as the target audience, can have a significant impact on the broadcast content. In the case of the pension reform, significant differences in the image of this measure, which was designed by the media under consideration, can be identified. TV channels could cover it in a predominantly positive tone (Channel One), a rather positive tone, while acknowledging that the issue is criticized by a part of the population (RT) or in a predominantly critical style (TV Rain). Depending on the promoted position, the channels chose the participants of the dscussions, as well as the range of arguments and aspects of the problem that deserved attention.

The study found that government-funded television channels nevertheless constructed the image of the pension reform in different ways, focusing on their target audience. The range of arguments was wide and varied. Meanwhile there has often been a simplification of information, which, according to previous studies, is a feature of many economic discussions.

The attempts of major federal channels to de-problematize the reform of the pension system appear to have had limited success. Polling data show a decrease in the number of Russians who consider television the main sources of information. At the same time, 24% of respondents believed that pension reform was more fully and objectively covered on the Internet. The reason for the limited effect of the mass media could be a great role of personal experience in shaping attitudes to such issues, and a sub-optimal choice of communication strategy.

Publications:


Belyavskiy B. Social Embeddedness as a Business Goal: New Theoretical Implications from the Case of a Global Value Chain // Экономическая социология. 2020. Vol. 21. No. 3. P. 151-173. doi
Белявский Б. А. Кембриджская школа: импорт и модернизация метода анализа истории // Философия. Журнал Высшей школы экономики. 2020. Т. 4. № 3. C. 217-229. doi
Berdysheva E., Belyavskiy B. Spent by Mammy as Earned by Daddy: Rethinking Household Consumption as a Foundation of Gender Egalitarianism, in: Gendering Post-soviet space: Demography, Labor Market and Values in Empirical Research.: Springer, 2021. С. 381-405.