Introduction: The Russian Welfare State in a Time of Economic Stagnation

In: Russian Politics
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  • 1 Brown University, USA
  • 2 Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway
  • 3 Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki, Finland
  • 4 Emeritus Professor, University of Bergen, Comparative Social Policy at the Hertie School of Governance, Berlin, Norway

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This Special Issue is devoted to Russia’s welfare state during the years of economic stagnation that began in 2013. Twelve experts assess social conditions and reforms in poverty, labor market, pension, housing and education policies. They show that social mobility has stagnated in conditions of deep inequality and just-above-poverty incomes for many. Innovative labor market and anti-poverty policies are hampered by low productivity and wages, both features of an oligarchic economic model that blocks competition and development. Welfare commitments heavily burden the state budget, producing reforms that transfer costs to users. The authors find that popular protests have forced government to partially mitigate these reforms. Putin’s government appears trapped between oligarchic economic interests and popular expectations for welfare. The final article compares China’s comparatively successful welfare trajectories with those of Russia, and proposes an agenda for further research.