Staunton, Sept. 6 – One of the causes of “the revolt of the intelligentsia” that helped bring down the Soviet Union was that universities at that time were producing more graduates than the economy could use, a pattern that led to underemployment, depression, anger and a desire for exit or radical change.
Now, commentator Pavel Pryanikov says, a similar situation has emerged in the Russian Federation with the country’s higher educational institutions having produced some eight million more graduates than its economy can employ in their specialties (newizv.ru/article/general/05-09-2021/tsifra-dnya-8-mln-chelovek-s-vysshim-obrazovaniem-okazalis-ne-nuzhny-nashey-ekonomike).
According to international patterns, each additional year of education should add eight to 12 percent to the incomes of those who go through it; and in Russia now, that figure is still five to eight percent, he continues. But when this economic law is violated as it was in late Soviet times and is again now, it has its own serious “political consequences.”
At the end of Soviet times, many workers were able to earn far more than university graduates working in their specialties, leading some of the latter to change jobs but also to become bitter that they had made the investment in education and that it was not bringing the promised rewards. Something similar is happening now, Pryanikov says.
Drawing on studies by economists, he says that the approximately eight million Russians with higher educations aren’t working in jobs they prepared for. They either leave the country, go into the shadow sector, take jobs for which they are often overqualified, or become unemployed, homeless or something similar.
What this means economically is that the Russian system of higher education and the Russian economy are out of balance, Pryanikov says. What it means socially and politically is that once again, Russia has a remarkably large number of people who can’t get jobs in their professions and see little prospect of that situation changing.
And when they draw those conclusions, as they did in the 1980s and may soon again, the educated minority which can’t find work of the kind they were trained for or at the salary they expected are likely to become restive, something that challenges social stability and even the political order.