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Federal Center of Theoretical and Applied Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences
This article debunks a number of myths on social policy in Russia. We consider the following commonplace preconceptions that can be interpreted as myths: Russians’ quality of living has been improving over the past few years (excluding the crisis); market processes in the social sphere are more effective than government-initiated processes; economic growth automatically solves all social issues and improves the quality of living for the majority of the population, because all social issues are resource-based; spikes in social inequality are an inevitable side effect of economic modernization and will go away with time; targeted injection of resources is the key effective solution for social issues and the chief way of improving the quality of living for the majority of the population; instead of increasing government spending, we have to “teach a man to fish”; all social services (housing, education, healthcare etc.) must be made universally acceptable; a flat tax rate means that the taxes are levied fairly; mortgages are the main solution for the housing problem; our goal is to “do one over” the developed countries; being just and fair is the main way of decreasing inequality. We then demonstrate that the above preconceptions do not match the actual state of the Russian society. For instance, despite the positive average income dynamics of the “well-fed years”, the forced increase of the highest income and wages meant that social polarization kept growing instead of shrinking; market economy processes cannot be beneficial for social policy than public governance, because the goals and objectives of the government go far beyond pure economics; economic growth in and of itself is not enough to improve the population’s quality of living, because it is the government that is responsible for ensuring that income is distributed in a way that improves the wellbeing of most of the population; and so forth. Our overall conclusion is that the main issues of poverty and inequality arise not from the sheer lack of resources, but rather from the way such resources are distributed and redistributed. The Russian ruling class would benefit from curbing social and economic inequality down to reasonable proportions that would help better consolidate society, increase the level of trust towards the government, and create a positive environment for economic and demographic growth. Shifting the point of balance in social and economic policy to optimized distribution has now become essential for making certain that our countrys economy is healthy and thriving.
social policy, inequality, poverty, housing, taxation
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