Social policy in postsoviet economy (federal and regional)
Опубликовано на портале: 14-09-2011
Regional features of Moscow, St Petersburg and Voronezh in the strict scientific sense, the problem of achieving a typologically sound sample of research subjects in a social milieu as lacking in homogeneity as Russia today is insoluble. Suffice it to say that within Russia we have Slavic/Christian, Turkic/Muslim and Mongol/Buddhist historical/cultural zones; and within the Russian (Slavic/Christian) zone, there are substantial differences between the Northern Russian, Central (mixed), Southern Russian and Siberian sub-ethnic regions. In each of these cases, we are talking of huge tracts of land and populations in the many millions, with major differences in their value systems, lifestyles and the way their economies are run. In addition to this, we have the economic and spatial differentiation of Russia into 11 major economic regions which differ from each other immeasurably more than, say, the North and South of Italy.The problem of regional differences, and particularly differences in the quality, structure and nature of human resources and in the related features of national and local authority social policy, is not new, and is one that is being addressed by many other countries. National policy on the regions in any country strives to iron out these differences, fraught as they are with social, ethnic and political conflicts, and to attain as uniform as possible a level and quality of life for the populace in all regions. Of course the level of economic development of the regions is of special significance in this, as it is crucial in governing social policy resources.Today, as Russia makes its painful and difficult way towards democracy and a market economy, we should bear in mind that regional differences and regional contradictions arising out of them may essentially be divided into three basic types.Those which are basically a feature of any market economy, with their corresponding regional contradictions, are 'Type 1 regional differences". They arise as an inevitable result of the action of a free market and free competition.Those which are characteristic of a society in transition are 'Type 2 regional differences". In Russia, some regions "fit in" to the market more easily than others, and adapt to the new conditions with greater or lesser social cost. The all-embracing nature of the modernization that is under way throughout the country acts on, and in turn also depends on, the physical and spiritual health of the local populace, the degree of skills training that is in place, the ability and desire of people to live and work in the new "market" conditions and their competitiveness.Those which are tied in with a whole series of cultural and ethnic problems are 'Type 3 regional differences". Obviously, Russia is a multi-ethnic country where various peoples with their own cultural features and traditional attitudes to forms and types of work, to working and free time and so on, have lived alongside one another for many centuries. But even more significant, perhaps, is the fact that Russia is a country which might be placed in the category of civilizations that are "on the border", lying as it does between European and Asiatic civilizations, while at the same time having its own authenticity. In this respect, there is also an uneven degree of adherence to the traditional extensive model of economic and cultural development. As a result, some Russian regions experience a greater draw towards European culture and civilization and are able to take on board the new value system coming to them with the modernization of the country; while others stick to traditional extensive culture and reject (or at any rate have a problem coming to terms with) modernization and its associated need to take an active stance and be ready to study and master new ways of working. The differences in type between regional leaders and the people living in the country's different regions are, hardly surprisingly therefore, enormous.In the 1990s, gaps between the regions began to grow rapidly; a process of stratification is taking place, in which the Russian regions are splitting into qualitatively different types. There are the "capital city regions", with a strong financial sector the export-oriented northern and eastern regions; a number of provinces and republics which have achieved economic "sovereignty", with a relatively low (average) level of income and low prices; and regions where economic development is lagging behind, which have low purchasing power.Under such conditions, sampling our research subjects meant to a large extent also choosing the angle from which the problem, as well as the aims and objectives of the research, were to be viewed. Even before we formed our research plan, it was clear that, in purely numerical terms, there was a predominance of depressed regions in a Russia in the process of reform - regions where the populace and the local authorities were unprepared for life in market economy conditions. Trends in economic and social development are not measured by arithmetic, however. Clearly, if we were to understand where the country was heading, we had to analyze the situation in regions where development was furthest on, which could be regarded as a model of the immediate future for the whole (or almost the whole) country.We considered the it would not be sensible to take small or medium-sized towns for this purpose, because our research plan presupposed analysis of the whole range groups in crisis on the regional labour market, as well as the existence of a "harmonious grouping" of policy makers who could speak as experts. With all this in mind, our choice was more or less made for us: the two Russian capitals - Moscow and St Petersburg. For comparison we chose Voronezh - a city in one of a number of depressed regions, with an economic and employment structure not dissimilar from that of the two capitals.