Russia Registers Dramatic Surge in Youth Poverty

The number of children under 16 in Russia who live below the poverty level has dramatically increased in the last decade, and today a third of all the people classified as poor in the country are children, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports.

According to the report, this situation is a direct result of government policies which have pushed more children into poverty.

“Poverty among children has become a systemic problem, one that the authorities have helped to create by their specific policies which focus mostly on preventing poverty among the elderly and that is likely to get worse in the future as the country fails to achieve the amount of economic growth needed to lessen this plague,” economic journalist Anastasia Baskatova says.

According to a new study by the Moscow-based Higher School of Economics, more than 60 percent of the poor in Russia are families with children. In fact, since the early 1990s, children have become 1.52 times more likely than Russians as a whole to fall into poverty and remain there for a long time, the study says.

One of the authors of the document, Liliiya Ovcharova, argues that “the increase of the fraction of children among the poor is connected with the fact that in Russia, social programs directed at fighting poverty are directed primarily in support of the elderly”. Many of the programs from Soviet times created to help children have been cut back or eliminated, the analyst says.

A recent pledge by President Vladimir Putin to revitalize the Russian economy through heavy investment does nothing to address this, Ovcharova says, adding that the President’s May Decrees are based on assumptions that cannot possibly be realized.

“For example, reducing poverty in half would require economic growth of at least eight percent a year while no one thinks the Russian economy can grow by more than four percent, even under the best of conditions,” the expert says.

According to the Higher School of Economics report, there is “a very high degree of probability” that poverty among children in Russia is something that is going to be around for a very long time and may get worse before there is any chance that it will get better. “There are things the government could do but it has chosen not to – and is unlikely to change,” the report concludes.