New report examines Russian attitudes on welfare


The first of two new publications based on European Social Survey (ESS) data has been produced by those involved in the public attitudes to welfare and climate change in the European Union and Russia (PAWCER) project.

The report - Russian versus European welfare attitudes - reveals that Russian respondents are strongly in favour of welfare systems that benefit the entire population, such as a proposed universal basic income or old-age pensions, but are considerably less supportive of programmes aimed at specific groups of people in need, such as the unemployed, working parents and migrants.

The report found that both perceived financial insecurity and support for basic income are high in Eastern Europe and Russia compared to other European regions.

Over 73% of Russian respondents supported the introduction of a basic income scheme - the second highest level of support, behind Lithuania (80.6%). This compared to under 40% of respondents in Norway (33.7%), Switzerland (34.7%) and Sweden (37.6%) - places where rates of financial insecurity were comparatively low.

Eastern Europeans and Russians are amongst the most reserved about the social rights of immigrants, with at least 40% of respondents thinking migrants should never be given the same social benefits as native born citizens or only be granted to them after becoming citizens.

In Eastern Europe and Russia, people’s perceptions of the living standards of the unemployed are low, but this does not necessarily lead to support for increasing benefits for those who are currently out of work.

The authors feel that one possible explanation could be that Russians might not have a favourable opinion about the general living standards: the proportion of people who anticipate financial difficulties is one of the highest and Russians think the living standards of pensioners is poor.

The report found that people in the Nordic countries are quite confident that social benefits will lead to more equality, whereas people in the Eastern European countries are at the other end of the scale. Only 24.4% of Russians think that social benefits and services will lead to more equality - the lowest of any country. Finnish respondents (69%) are most likely to believe that the opposite is true.

It also found that people tend to place more restrictions on benefits where welfare systems are deemed to be less effective: mainly Eastern European countries and Russia.

However, when looking at the old EU member states alone, respondents are more critical in countries where welfare systems are perceived to be effective in preventing widespread poverty.

Russian versus European welfare attitudes focuses on data from Round 8 (2016/17) of the ESS, collected in 23 participating countries.

The report was written by Michael Ochsner and Laura Ravazzini (FORS, Switzerland), Wim van Oorschot and Dimitri Gugushvili (KU Leuven, Belgium), Marcel Fink and Peter Grand (IHS, Austria) and Orsolya Lelkes (European Centre, Austria).