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Russian Population in the Light of Ano-ther Economic Crisis

русская версия

Опубликовано на портале: 17-04-2011
Мир России. 2010.  Т. 19. № 4. С. 162-181. 
Тематический раздел:
To evaluate the influence of the current economic crisis on the lives of Russian population, its attitudes and perceptions one would apparently have to know about the pre-crisis state of the Russia's society. A significant improvement in the well-being, which happened in the 2000s, was nevertheless insufficient to bolster the cardinal changes in the structure of incomes and consumption of the larger part of the population as compared to the last years of the previous century. The years of economic growth, which preceded the current crisis, haven't been converted into well-being, which would more or less correspond to a true market economy. In spite of gradual improvements, the majority of the population is still rather poor and enjoy the wages, which is only enough to satisfy their current basic needs (food and clothing). The economic relations have become so primitive that the economic crisis is evaluated either in the terms of wage cuts, or in the terms of the pace of inflation, which 'eats away' those wages. This explains why the world financial crisis has been so underestimated in Russia at its beginning. Its particular model of incomes and consumption has dampened the situation: i.e. the majority of people have recognized the influence of the worsening economic situation only when their earning opportunities had been directly affected. On the other hand, the inflation of prices at consumer markets was a less significant factor in emphasizing the crisis, since, both, the inflation and expectations, have been rather high in a preceding period. In this paper the author analyses people's response to economic crisis by looking at the data from mass surveys and macroeconomic statistics. The objective is to reveal the extent of rationality of the so-called homo economicus in Russia and to demonstrate the forecast abilities of the subjective attitudes of population with respect to economy changes. The fears of a new wave of economic crisis (in the late 2008) have caused a steep fall in the subjective well-being of Russian households and provoked the corresponding adjustments in consumers' behavior. An average consumer has reacted rather rationally by cutting their consumption. In the autumn of 2008 high inflation expectations have led to a short-term (until the beginning of 2009) increase in demand among only among the high-income groups of population, while the majority of people have began to cut their demand in response to the threat of unemployment and wage reductions (along with high inflation expectations). This has been an expected response according to CPI (Consumer Price Index) behavior, which has started to decrease as early as in the summer of 2008. Consumer crediting and, precisely, personal loans are another important factor of the economy change, which is directly related to people's choices. At least one third of the households had a loan debt before the crisis, while during the crisis consumer crediting has literally collapsed. In half a year the share of such debtors has decreased almost four-fold. In the second half of 2009 the crediting has improved slightly, but the process is still rather slow and the balance of positive and negative attitudes towards credited purchases is at about the same level as ten years ago. The population's reaction to the current consequences of the economic crisis has been quite sharp, yet adequate at the same time. For now the fear of unemployment and income reductions accordingly have proved to be groundless, the population has more or less settled down, but it is not ready to return to the pre-crisis consumer euphoria yet. The signs of a rise in consumer optimism, which have appeared at the beginning of spring 2009, have been too weak to develop any further. The corresponding figures have been quite stable (with the only exception of a short-term rise on the New Year's eve 2009/2010). Generally the crisis period has shown that Russia's current development model has more or less successfully resisted most economic difficulties as far as population is concerned. This relative success may owe to the 'hand mode' of regulating economy. This could be an additional argument in favor of a 'slow and gradual' search for approaches to the solving of long standing problems, or modernization problems, as they are popularly referred to today. But the assignments are still due, even though the authorities have apparently skipped them this time
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