Thursday, July 21, 2016

‘Young Russians Will Be Poorer’ -- and Likely Angrier -- ‘than Their Parents,’ Moscow Paper Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 21 – On top of the overall decline in Russian incomes which have dropped in each of the last 20 months from the month before, Russians are suffering from a phenomenon common to many countries with stagnating economies: the younger generation is and may very well remain poorer than their parents, “Nezavisimaya gazeta” says today.

            That pattern, the editors of the Moscow paper say, has already led to “fundamental political shifts” in Western countries, and thus it is reasonable to expect that it will affect Russia although not as immediately because the Russian regime is less responsive to the population than are Western governments (

            The paper bases its conclusions on the findings of a report by the McKinsey Global Institute which found that “in the 25 most developed countries, the incomes of the majority of the population have not increased in the course of the last decade,” something that has not happened since World War II.

            One result of this, the institute says, is that many young people are now protesting “against traditional political structures” and “voting for extra-systemic politicians” who advocate taking steps at odds with the establishment. This is likely to intensify, the study suggests, because “the current younger generation risks becoming poorer than its parents in the future.”

            The question the editors raise is whether this will happen in Russia as well. They note that “in Russia the period of the decline of incomes is only beginning. But its general results hardy will be distinguished from the consequences of the stagnation of incomes of the population in developed countries.”

            “Deprived of economic prospects,” the paper continues, “young Russian could become the nucleus for protest attitudes,” and “the rest of the population could support them,” with a resulting change in popular attitudes “toward the authorities and toward politicians.” If so, “Russians could forget about their traditional political apathy.”

            Of course, the paper concedes, “the possibilities of the special services and television propagandists in Russia are great.” But even they may prove powerless if this generational pattern continues for some time – at least that is what is suggested by developments in other countries.

            Many of them suffered stagnation in the first decade of the 21st century, but Russia did not. Incomes rose through 2013, “but beginning in 2014, Russia also entered into a period of stagnation and falling incomes and pay.” Today, the average pay in Russia is 570 US dollars. “A year ago, it was much higher, almost 650;” and the year before that even higher – 930.

            This pattern is expected to continue into next year and perhaps longer, especially as the government cuts back on its social spending.  And such a fall in incomes will have “a direct influence on the fate of people,” one far larger than just not purchasing some new gadget or going out to eat.

            “Young people will not be able to buy their own housing” – there were 30 percent fewer new mortgages in Russia in 2015 than in 2014 – and they will not be able to start families – Rosstat reports that the number of registered marriages has fallen in recent years at an accelerating rate.

            Anyone who thinks that these changes will not affect the attitudes of the young about politics and much else is only fooling himself.

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