Российское общество и вызовы времени. Книга третья
Conclusion: main deductions
Considering that the main tasks of the third «wave» of IS RAS sociological monitoring focused on analyzing the influence of one year of crisis on the social and economic everyday life of Russians, it looks appropriate to provide the deductions and evaluations which characterize the degree of our citizens’ satisfaction with the main aspects of their lives. Should we also single out the conclusions about the role of different resources in adaptation of population to the conditions of crisis and does it possess the «safety margin»?
First deduction. The degree of tension in the mass consciousness and sensitivity of the citizens for possible threats for Russia remain high. At the same time, 2014–2015 became the time of a sharp change in priorities related to evaluation of the main threats for Russia by the population. Two years ago internal threats were the main ones for Russia, but in the part year the focus clearly shifted to the threats whose source lies across the border. Triple prevalence of the importance of external threats over the internal ones is common for different social groups and strata; traditional delimitation lines (age, material well-being, nationality, etc.) do not reveal any «special opinions». It makes it possible to talk about the common vision of the situation in the country as the one depending on external sources of threat to its well-being for the majority of the population, including different groups and layers.
Shifting the «center of gravity» in relevant risks evaluation across the border to some extent reduces the degree of social tension caused by the economic crisis. The external enemy becomes the main negative force in the mass consciousness and accumulates possible discontent; the society adapts itself to economic hardships, relying on the well-known formula «Anything but war». Judging by the sites of international instability, the resource of this formula will remain considerable.
In the conditions of shifting the focus of public attention to external threats, the subjective influence of the crisis to mass consciousness and behavior of the Russians was not as strong as could be expected. The crisis influenced deterioration of the social and psychological state of the Russians, but did not result in unconditional domination of the negative feelings of anxiety, apathy, aggression, etc. The first stress was overcome, the population started to adapt to the new situation, and the positive manifestations of the psychoemotional state of Russians started to balance the negative conditions.
Second deduction. With regard to the economic condition of the population, in 2015 we could observe conservation of its deterioration which started back in 2014. While average individual and family income did not fall during the year of crisis and even slightly increased, this growth could not counteract inflation. In addition, the dynamics of the specified indicators were of different nature in terms of groups with different income: in the past year, the average income of the lowest decile did not decrease, while the top decile’s income did. This partly contributed to the reduction of inequality recorded by statistics. However, the situation of representatives of the two top deciles of Russians was qualitatively different from the rest of the population, even taking into account the negative dynamics of their income. As a result, more successful groups rarely said that they were affected by the crisis in general in its most common forms related to the rising cost of living and drop in income. This was due to the fact that their economic situation is not mediated by current income only (which is typical of the less successful groups of our citizens) but also by wider opportunities and resources that make it possible to mitigate the impact of crisis phenomena in the economy on their own life.
Crisis continued to influence the majority of the population, first of all, through the concomitant significant increase in prices, even though it is perceived less acutely today than it was in 2014. The second component of the influence of crisis on the Russians’ financial standing, reduction in income caused by problems at the enterprises, affected mainly Moscow and St. Petersburg (44%) inhabitants than those living in other types of settlements (23–28%). The scope of other forms of crisis impact on the situation of Russians in the labor market (loss of job, salary delays, unpaid leaves) remained practically the same in 2015.
Comparative analysis of the results of sociological research suggests that the current crisis affected Russians less acutely than that of 2009. This was manifested both in less pronounced coverage of the population by structural problems related to labor market situation and in the assessments it gives today to the damage caused by the crisis, which is most often characterized as substantial but not catastrophic.
These assessments may also be explained by the fact that there were no changes relating to quality reduction in the «safety margin» possessed by the Russian population during the year lived in the conditions of economic recession. On the whole, indicators of real estate and property ownership, savings and credits, and the nature of the main sources of income for Russians demonstrated their reliability. On the other hand, such a «safety margin» was not high even in pre- crisis years, relatively stable in terms of socio-economic development, and did not increase in the crisis period, either.
The past year of crisis did not introduce significant changes in the practices of distribution of various financial behavior strategies: the number of Russians who have savings did not decline, while the number of those with the burden of debts slightly increased. As of autumn 2015, certain amounts of savings were possessed by a third of the Russian population (although only 8% among had sufficient savings to live on for a relatively long time), whereas 38% of our fellow citizens had only all sorts of debts or loans. Savings are more characteristic of successful groups of the population, while the less successful representatives only have some debt obligations, which strengthens the risks of further deterioration of the situation in difficult economic conditions that are typical of them.
Third deduction. Changes in the nature of employment of the population made a considerable contribution to the current economic crisis. In particular, employment in the industrial sector of the economy, and the number of workers on the whole, decreased. This situation developed further in the situation of crisis, though it was the period when agrarians lost jobs relatively more frequently than urban workers. In previous years, the income of private sector employees was higher than that of public sector ones, but the start of the crisis leveled this situation up, and the public sector employees even overtook those employed in private companies. In the conditions of crisis, the specified tendency was not only preserved but also aggravated. The employees of privatized companies found themselves in the most favorable condition as all their income indicators increased. However, it should be borne in mind that the share of the public sector employees with a higher education is more than twice higher than the one recorded at privatized and newly established private companies. As a result, the situation with income of its employees (with all its advantages) means underestimation of qualification characteristics of public sector employees when their salary is set, which was typical of it in the past and still is in the present, which implies underpayment for their work.
In the conditions of crisis that entailed reduction of possibilities for part- time jobs and extra earnings, the working population living in the largest Russian megalopolises started to engage in subsidiary farming more actively. This is in many ways related to the fact that the working residents of the capital were struck the most by falling level of expenses even in absolute terms. Besides, the working population of the capitals, especially Moscow, felt the consequences of the crisis more acutely than the residents of other settlements, even though they were mostly related to change in employment conditions rather than loss of jobs as such: the latter was first of all characteristic of village dwellers.
The research showed that costs optimization processes in the conditions of crisis hit the hardest the working Russians living in rural areas. In one year of crisis, dismissals in villages adopted mass proportions, problems with permanent employment of capable family members appeared in every seventh rural household, and the employers increased pressure on employees, refusing to pay overtime. As a result, mass overtime became more widespread in villages, and it is paid far more rarely. It testifies more to powerlessness of villagers, their fear to lose a job in the conditions of mass unemployment and inability to resist the pressure of employers, than to their desire to earn more characteristic of urban dwellers.
As for subsidiary farming, such practices are mainly lost in Russian villages at present, though the share of those who consider it as one of the main sources of income rose in the period of crisis. In this sense, «return to vegetable gardens» should be more considered as all-Russian reaction to deteriorating situation in the economy, which shows in villages as well, than the response to the crisis specific of villagers. In any case, even after a year of crisis in the conditions of growing unemployment in rural areas, subsidiary farming is a considerable support to family budget for less than 40% of villagers, and trading in agricultural products grown there is characteristic of minor percentage of rural households.
At the same time, the share of the latter that had the kinds of additional activities typical of cities in the structure of income sources equaled the share of those who had subsidiary farming even in the crisis-struck autumn of 2015 and slightly exceeded the share of households employed in subsistence economy (without selling of manufactured products).
Thus we may draw a conclusion that urbanized employment model starts to predominate in Russian villages. We can also say that the Russian village parts with its past where «subsistence economy» first formed the basis of life, then became its integral part, and later turned into the most accessible resource of compensating deteriorating economic situation. And although this parting is quite painstaking, accompanied with distribution of unpaid overtime, more instable employment, growing unemployment, etc., this is a positive tendency on the whole, which testifies to serious changes and movement of the Russian village towards present-day model of land farming.
Fourth deduction. The first year of the current crisis actualized the problem of provision of the Russian population with resources. It should be taken into account that all kinds of resources accessible to it, both traditional economic ones (for example, savings) and those incorporated types that acquired special importance at the end of the 20th century, are tightly related, and availability of one of them usually implies presence of the other. As a result, the population of the country is divided into high-resource, mid-resource and low-resource one, and each of these groups was affected by the crisis in a different way.
The representatives of high-resource population that ha considerable «safety margin» by the start of the crisis were least materially affected by the crisis, though the level of their expenses decreased more considerably that in other groups in real terms. At the same time, it does not mean that they experienced fewer problems. The matter is that the influence of the crisis on high-resource group of our fellow citizens was much more complex and varied than in case of mid-resource population. The main forms of this influence included not only rising prices and decreasing income experienced by the other Russians but also change in situation at work for many of them. And though the accumulated «safety margin», including in the part of qualification and social resources, allows them to level out the consequences of the economic crisis for living standards, which does not mean that they are well. On the contrary, it is this group of the Russian society, living mainly in capitals, which is quite well off, was the only one (materially) affected by the crisis not only in terms of habitual living standards but also on customary way of life. Surely, it could not help influencing their attitude to what is happening, in particular, the degree of their practical patriotism and general evaluation of the impact of crisis on their everyday life.
As for low-resource groups, they were struck by the crisis more than an average Russian event despite growth in their nominal income that is ahead of all the other groups of the Russian population. First of all, absence not only of economic resources in the form of savings but also of all the other resources that ensure «safety
margin» for a person in present-day Russia, prevented them from compensating reduction in the level of real income. Secondly, due to a low quality of human capital, they were first of all affected by the consequences of deteriorating situation on the labor market, which manifested themselves in disappearance of income from employment (we are first of all talking about outrunning growth of dismissals and actual unemployment), as well as increase in unpaid overtime and impossibility to find additional paid activity. Third, absent or low-quality social resource prevented the representatives of low-resource groups of the population from relying on the support of their own social networks in this difficult situation. The situation looks especially acute as the representatives of this group of our citizens have an expressed territorial localization: the majority of them is concentrated in Russian villages with their objectively hard situation on the labor market.
The third «wave» of monitoring also showed the importance of other adaptation resources of the Russians. For example, it was confirmed that the administrative resource, associated in the minds of representatives of the mass strata of the population not so much with their administrative position but more with their place in the structure of the production collective (core/periphery) and the resource of influence mediated by it, really «works» in the conditions of crisis by reducing the negative influence of the latter and ensuring additional possibilities of adaptation to the situation of crisis. Systematic secondary employment with a full-time job is acquiring special importance.
In Russian realia, the qualification resource is also becoming an important factor of stability of the nation’s well-being in the period of crisis. At the same time, it does not guarantee complete preservation of well being even to those possessing its very developed form, though it considerably increases the probability of this. Moreover, different components of the qualification resource are important for different educational and professional groups: something that brings additional income to some is relatively unimportant for the others.
The cultural resource related to socialization in a certain sphere and actually reflecting the process of class reproduction in the Russian society is also very important not only in stable but especially in crisis conditions. In fact, all the resources show considerable statistic connection with the cultural resource from the viewpoint of their volume and availability. However, the cultural resource works most efficiently in the times of crisis in the places where there is a shortage of it, in Russian villages, where there are few people that grew up in educated families.
Finally, the social resource is important for increase in adaptation possibilities of Russians not only from the viewpoint of its availability or absence or even the number of kinds of support our fellow citizens can rely on but also in terms of characteristic peculiarities of these kinds of support. During the crisis, the most efficient varieties of the social resource are those that testify not just to network support, but to connections, especially restricted ones, such as access to the officials responsible for resolution of the person’s problems, a possibility to loan a large amount of money, etc.
Fifth deduction. The economic crisis exacerbated the problem of inequality in mass perception: at the date of survey (autumn, 2015) only 3% of the population agreed with the fact that there are no sharp social inequalities in the Russian society, while 9% noted that they did not suffer from any of them. Analyzing the dynamics of perception of different inequalities, typical of the present-day Russian society, by Russians, shows that they note quite sharp aggravation of inequalities of different types and kinds, monetary and non- monetary, in the past two years. At the same time, our fellow citizens point to these or those inequalities as painful for the society on the whole rather than for them personally.
Today, Russians see inequality of income as the most acute problem (which is no surprise as income inequality in the present-day Russia is not just considerable by itself but it also determines a number of non-monetary inequalities which make the population suffer). Despite the fact that one year of crisis contributed to reduction in the income of the most and the least well-off groups of ordinary Russian citizens that take part in mass surveys, the last year, on the contrary, aggravated this problem in the perception of the population. This testifies to the fact that when Russians condemn inequalities in this sphere, they do not compare their position with other ordinary citizens but rather with the top 4–5% of them that do not take part in mass surveys and whose demonstrative consumption during the crisis is seen by the population as the challenge to the society, as the feast in time of plague. As a result, the overwhelming majority of Russians (82%) considers inequality of income to be the most painful for the society on the whole, and two thirds say that they suffer from it themselves.
As for non-monetary inequalities, the Russians, as a rule, negatively evaluate the position with those that relate to their own everyday life. Thus, the youth perceives inequality in access to education and leisure possibilities more painfully, while inequality in access to quality (and often any) medical assistance is more relevant for the older population. As far as place of residence is concerned, the situation with inequalities is perceived more acutely by residents of capitals in connection with typical social differentiation and specific nature of their requests for certain life models.
Thus, the present-day Russian society adopts, on the one hand, a consensus opinion about excessively high inequality by income that characterizes the situation in the country and influences the everyday life of the majority of Russians. On the other hand, different social groups suffer differently from this and other types of inequality. The acuteness of non-monetary types of inequality is partly related to monetary inequalities and partly to other factors. A group may be singled out in the structure of the society that is characterized by the most beneficial situation from the viewpoint of influence of different inequalities. This group differs by a higher wealth status on the whole (more accessible resources of different types, better chances in life, positive dynamics of the position in the society, etc.), which, in its turn, finds its reflection in its behavioral strategies and values.
Sixth deduction. The year of crisis could not help influencing the positions of different social strata in the society, first of all, the poor and middle class representatives. As for the poor, in the conditions of the 2014–2015 crisis, their number increased twice as compared to the pre-crisis 2012–2013 and made up 25% of the population in October 2015. If we take into account the periphery of the group with income from 1.0 to 1.1 living wages, whose representatives may soon replenish the group of the poor due to depletion of available resources, it is quite probable that in the first half of 2016, the number of the poor may reach one third from the total population.
On the whole, the data makes it possible to say that the group of the poor increased twice in the conditions of an economic crisis due to two parallel complexes of reasons. On the one hand, it was «optimization» of the Russian economy in general and industrial enterprises in particular, which manifested itself in dismissal of the least efficient but qualified workforce, mainly men. These dismissals, accompanied with increasing labor load on the remaining workers, higher degree of their exploitation and reduction of social protection of all the workers, once more showed in many ways pointless nature of discussions about shortage of qualified personnel in the Russian economy. On the other hand, a sharp increase in prices in the conditions of stagnating salaries, quite low in many cases, contributed to the fact that many of those whose level of income was just a little higher than the cost of living before the crisis (periphery of poverty) became poor following the first year of crisis.
Among those that joined the ranks of the poor population, special attention should be paid to those who rapidly slid back to poverty from quite satisfactory positions in terms of status earlier. Unlike the others, the representatives of this subgroup of the poor felt adequate members of the society in the pre-crisis times, while today they feel outsiders beyond the borders of normal life due to the crisis. These are people with good education (2/3 of them have a higher or secondary special education), that often work in the industrial sector of the economy and live in villages or urban settlements in more than half of the cases. Their other peculiarities include worse state of health than on average among the population and a larger number of dependents in the family. Thus, this is relatively less efficient (but educated and capable of working) workforce which finds itself overboard in the process of Russian economy optimization. Drastic fall in their living standards was due to their loss of the previous workplace (and often unsuccessful search for a new one), resulting in presence of an unemployed capable of working in each third household of this group of the poor.
On the whole, the data of IS RAS monitoring testifies to the fact that the Russian governmental institutes responsible for the state of the social sphere were unprepared for neutralization of the risks of mass distribution of poverty in the conditions of crisis. Poverty is still regarded by the state policy first of all as the problem of social welfare rather than employment policy. The current crisis clearly demonstrates invalidity of this approach to overcoming Russian poverty.
As for the Russian middle class, the impact of the crisis did not lead to its disappearance or reduction despite popular speculations. However, this influence manifested itself in all the negative tendencies of change in the economic position and employment of middle class representatives that formed in pre-crisis years.
If we talk about the dynamics of the economic condition of the middle class, whose representatives found themselves in quite a favorable situation at the end of the 2000s, now they started to gradually lose their privileged position while still preserving considerable distance from the other citizens. The research showed that the current crisis contributed to considerable deterioration in the position of the Russian middle class.
If we talk about other negative consequences of the crisis, the most important of them for middle classes of the country included worse social protection at work, growing prices, the necessity to reduce the use of paid social services, forced activation of all forms of additional work activity and aggravation of the problem of free time in this connection. Considering responsibility for their fate characteristic of the Russian middle class representatives, they would be willing to use more additional possibilities for earnings, but they are deprived of such possibilities and are critical about their reduction in recent years.
Nevertheless, by October 2015, the negative influence of the crisis on the middle class was on the whole less than could be expected: its numbers remained the same (42–44%), only the minority of it thought that their position deteriorated during the year of crisis, it was still dominated by the wish to solve their problems using their own resources, and in everyday life they typically used rational strategies of adaptation (including in terms of available financial resources management).
Seventh deduction. The reaction of the Russians to the sanctions of the West against Russia and countersanctions on the part of our country is a bright indicator of transformation processes currently taking place in the sphere of Russian self-comprehensions. First of all, this is related to the most well-off groups. It is for these groups that the process of Russian identity formation has entered a new phase. This is based on rethinking the image of its country and its role in the world under the influence of the most important events of 2014–2015 related to Russia. In line with certain social and psychological needs that formed in the society in the past decades, such re-thinking also entails particular practical conclusions, in particular, increases the probability of supporting the measures, which will «nurture» relevant identities.
It is this motive which forms the basis of the fact that the Russians are on the whole ready to sacrifice something for the sake of growing international authority of the country. We can even say that western sanctions consolidated the Russian society by triggering a similar reaction of all the social groups that make up mass layers of the population, and one year of crisis did not ruin this consolidation. However, we should not overestimate the readiness of the Russians to resort to real sacrificing: Russian citizens are ready for self-limitation only with regard to something that either does not affect the customary way and standards of living or touches upon their minor components.
Moreover, such readiness gradually weakens as the crisis continues, and all the groups of Russians adopt a similar position in this respect: They only differ in understanding of which components of the way of life are important for them. It is also important that despite the consensus about the new place of Russia in the world existing in the society on the whole, the population of the country is not homogeneous in this respect. A part of it, first of all, well-off strata of the population in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, is generating a different view of the desirable vector of the country’s development and another nature of civil identity that differs from the majority of Russians. Its important peculiarity consists in its dual nature, that is, identity not only with the Russian citizens but also with the «classical» Europeans. At the same time, the new, intensely Russian identity with accompanying «practical patriotism» is being formed more actively among other residents of capitals than in other types of settlements. As a result, differentiation in perception of the new reality in increasing in capitals as nowhere else.
Eighth deduction. In the conditions of crisis in Russia, the system of values and norms typical of neoetacratic societies, based on the special role of the state, preserves its stability and domination. However, this in no way implies the need for the totalitarian regime. On the contrary, we are talking about the consequence of society perception as the incarnation of the Power, which is specific for Russia. This perception means that the state is inseparable from the society, and the government is given a mandate to perform the function of care about its nation. In the eyes of the Russians, embodiment of the state model implies overall solidarity with regard to the citizens and helping those who did not succeed or got into trouble. The carrier of the power-based understanding of the society and the power-based version of patriotism is the majority of the Russian population, not some particular social groups, and the feeling of Power in Russians incorporates the feeling of unity with each other as the representatives of one whole whose existence is based on unified views of life, norms and values.
Such perception of relations between the state and the society by the population of the country is based on seeing Russia as a special civilization. Being a typical peculiarity of the Russian national self-identity, such understanding becomes a societal bond of the macrocommunity. However, a facet of this model of relations between the society, state and personality, which may be dangerous under certain conditions, is the fact that the state is responsible for violation of consensus in the society even in those cases when the power is not the source of such violations. According to the results of monitoring of IS RAS, the cases of violating the individual rights of Russian employees (mostly representatives of the working class) through the fault of the Russian business, whose number rose in the conditions of crisis, intensify the feeling of Russians that the power «broke away from the nation». As a result, about a half of the Russian population feels the differences between the society and the state in all its incarnations, which carries a potential threat to the existing power, though consolidation of the nation under the influence of the western pressure mitigated the conflict to some extent in the past year. The most conflicting subjects in this process are the directors at a different level that are ready to sacrifice even the social order to preserve the right to protect its interests more often than the others.
Besides, the risks of social conf licts and delegitimization of power are seriously increased by deteriorating social protection of employees and a crackdown on their rights by employers under the pretext of the crisis, which is spread more and more widely in the conditions of economic recession. The power needs to be more attentive about the situation on labor markets with attention focused on working professions. We should not rely on the patience of the Russian people in hope that the problem will resolve by itself and the business will no longer oppress the workers at its will. With the axiological and normative model of the society where the state is the core of social life, Russian workers may only hope for the state as the only guarantor of preservation of their rights and interests. Currently, the active role of the state is in high demand by the society, especially when the institutional possibilities of the population to make the power aware of its desires, as well as the possibility to struggle for its rights in a lawful way, are limited.