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Russian Real Incomes Mired in Negative Figures

Putin’s promise of big raises for public workers is very slow to materialize.

7 February 2019

Russian antigovernment crusader Alexei Navalny’s latest venture may look a bit gimmicky, but it gains credibility simply by calling out a growing social problem.


Navalny last month launched what he claims as a nationwide, independent trade union. Modestly named the Navalny Union, so far it consists of little more than a website detailing the salaries of Russian public employees and contrasting them to President Vladimir Putin’s promises of steep wage increases.


As The Moscow Times notes, Russians are dealing with the news that real disposable incomes fell five years running.


The Tatarstan-based news site Realnoe Vremya pulls up data from the state statistics agency Rosstat that show how real incomes are falling even as nominal wages rise.


The fall in real disposable incomes began with a drop of 0.7 percent in 2014. The following two years saw worrying declines of 3.2 and 5.8 percent before a recovery began, bringing the indicator almost into positive figures in 2018.


Wages meanwhile rose by a seemingly healthy 6.8 percent in 2018, more than double the rise in 2017.


Navalny is incensed at the gap between reality and Putin’s promises back in 2012 that salaries for doctors in some regions would rise to 69,000 rubles ($1,000) a month by 2018 and that teachers in St. Petersburg would soon be earning 59,000 rubles.


Looking over some current job offers, The Moscow Times says a state-funded hospital in Novosibirsk is seeking a department head at a salary of a mere 23,000 rubles. Job offers for teachers in St. Petersburg generally state salaries of 20,000 to 30,000 rubles.


Political analyst Yekaterina Schulmann of the Russian presidential academy of economics and public administration, RANEPA, said Navalny’s move was “politically astute.”


“This is the most valid political demand right now with the most potential political traction,” she said.



  • Finance Minister Anton Siluanov criticized Rosstat’s methodology for calculating real incomes as “terrible,” Realnoe Vremya says. However, Alexander Chekansky, the dean of the strategic management department at RANEPA, said the agency’s methods could be improved, “but in general I do not see big differences between the assessments that Rosstat gives and what is happening in reality.”


  • Government measures such as one-time payments to pensioners, indexing wages against inflation, and increasing the minimum wage slowed the decline of real incomes in 2017 and 2018, economics professor Lyudmila Ivanova-Shvets told Realnoe Vremya. However, she predicted that the indicator would rise only just into positive figures at most.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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