For 2022, Rosstat reported the lowest poverty level
in Russia’s entire post-Soviet history. “Only” 15.3 million people, or 10.5% of the population, were below the “poverty line.”
The annual readings traditionally reflect the data for the third quarter of the year, which, according to statisticians, is least distorted by seasonality. The impact of seasonality can be judged by the official statistics for 2022. In January-March 2022, another record was set, only a bad one. More than 5 million more people were below the poverty line than in January-March 2023 – 20.9 million or 14.3% of Russians. Yet by the fourth quarter of 2022, the number was even lower than the eventual full-year figure at 11.6 million, or 7.9% of the population.
Rosstat, and then the government, has pointed out
that such fluctuations are observed every year, as the poverty level is highly affected by seasonality. At the end of the year, incomes are higher due to various awards and bonuses. At the beginning of the year, the “poverty line” is usually raised, with the result being that more people fall under it.
The data from 2021 has been routinely used to support these claims. Back then, in the first quarter 14.2% of the population was under the poverty line, versus 8.5% in the fourth quarter. In the third quarter (and also for the full year), the figure was around 11%, 0.5 percentage points higher than in 2022. These fluctuations suggest that a significant part of the Russian population lives around the property line, which is used to determine who needs social support. Before considering how appropriate this line is, we should understand how officials have explained their success in bringing down poverty.Social payments and low unemployment
According to Rosstat, social payments and government benefits were the main driver behind the lower poverty reading. From April 1, 2022, in addition to payments for children from 3 to 7 years old, the authorities began to support families with children from 8 through 17 years old. According to Finance Minister Anton Siluanov
, this measure affected 3.7 million families, with the corresponding budget outlays exceeding RUB 1 trillion.
Another RUB 400 billion was spent on an unplanned indexation of pensions from June 1, 2022. The need for that arose after the spring economic shocks caused by the war and international sanctions.
Since we are talking about the budget, it is impossible to ignore flows directly related to the war. These include one-time payments to mobilized soldiers, monetary allowances for contract soldiers who are fighting, and payments to the wounded and family members of those killed.