Thursday, July 16, 2009

Balancing Work, Family Life, and Retirement in Russia: Part 3

III. Implementing Family Self-Sufficiency in Russia

Currently, there are ongoing attempts to implement the equivalent of WOW’s Family Economic Self-Sufficiency Standard in Russia. The Family Economic Self-Sufficiency Standard (FESS) provides a geographically-based measure of what it takes for families to make ends meet. It was developed in the United States to help working adults calculate how much money they need to meet their basic needs without subsidies of any kind. In Russia, self-sufficiency standards can be used for the same purpose: to provide working adults with information and assistance as to how to plan their budget; moreover, self-sufficiency standards can be used as a guideline for government to measure income adequacy and estimate the real number of individuals and families in poverty.

Record-keeping and statistics are not very developed throughout Russia, which makes it difficult to do the appropriate calculations and establish truly geographically-based standards for the huge territory of the country. As a result, for the time being, implementation of Family Economic Self-Sufficiency Standard is confined to the capital of Russia, Moscow City.
This approach has certain advantages, such as availability and relatively easy access to needed data. The Moscow City project is a promising start for data collection and analysis, but truly workable self-sufficiency standards should reflect cost variations across geographic regions outside of the Russia’s urban center. Moscow City is the financial, economical, and political capital of Russia as well as the country’s largest city by far and, thus, not representative of Russia as a whole.

In Russia, minimum budgets (analogous to the U.S. Federal Poverty Levels) only measure the needs of single adults living independently; they do not take into account family living and joint spending. The Family Economic Self-Sufficiency Standards in Moscow City distinguish between minimum and typical budgets, where minimum budget is mainly usable for low-income population as it only provides minimal satisfaction of basic needs, while typical budget ensures normal fulfillment of basic needs at the lower middle-class level. Typical budget is what is proposed to use as a Family Economic Self-Sufficiency Standard. For Moscow City in 2006, minimum budget was 5,000 rubles (roughly $156) per month per person, whereas self-sufficiency standard was calculated as 12,000 rubles (roughly $376) – that is, more than twice as much as minimum budget.

The project to collect these data was sponsored by Moscow City government, which signifies that the government is prepared to use this information in policymaking. Additionally, data have been shared with a number of bureaus and organizations so that this information can be used for lobbying and advocacy. Again, while this is a very encouraging start, much more research and work is needed to really bring the concept of economic self-sufficiency to Russia.

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