Inequality in Russia: Causes and Consequences


The inequality in financial matters, socioeconomic policies and the public domain has become a global concern. Russia has moved from the Soviet era of populism to abject poverty and extreme riches. The fast financial development that Russia has encountered in the previous decade did not cause any change in the poverty level and inequality among its citizens. Since the absolute destitution rate has considerably reduced from 29% in 2000 to 15% in 2016, a critical part of the Russian populace benefits from economic development (Bobkova, Vakhtinab & Simonovac 2016). Some analysts argue that inequality is a fundamental condition of economic development when put into the genuine setting; this contention seems shortsighted, if not false. Inequality influences the rising crime rate, lower dimensions of trust, health challenges and corruption. This paper argues that corruption regional inequalities and bias policy framework are the causes of inequality in Russia.

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Problem Statement and Research Question

Inequality is imperative for poverty evaluation since the manners in which riches and income are disseminated in a nation decide the degree and intellectual ability of poverty experienced by its populace. As the global experience proposes, social orders with an increasingly equivalent circulation of income have lower levels of destitution. Over the years, Russia has seen an uncommon development of income disparity. By 1980, the dimension of inequality in Russia surpassed many G20 nations, including Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, China and Turkey (Bobkova, Vakhtinab & Simonovac 2016). The ratio of the income of the most extravagant 10% of the populace to the income of the least fortunate 10% in Russia has hopped from 8 to 16, and the Gini coefficient moved from 0.23 to 0.48 (Bobkova, Vakhtinab & Simonovac 2016; Russell 2018). Based on these assumptions, inequality in Russia has kept on developing irrespective of government efforts. The inequality statistic highlights the motivation for this research. Based on the context of the problem statement, two research questions will be developed for this study.

Research Questions

  1. What are the predisposing factors of inequality in Russia?
  2. Does corruption influence inequality in Russia?

Literature Review

Socioeconomic Inequality and the Russian Population

The developing dimension of inequality, which includes the emotional experience of poverty and the restricting opportunities to improve the standard of living, aggravates the condition of impoverished individuals in Russia. With Moscow being the home of many billionaires and Russia’s goals to introduce itself as a thriving market destination and income nation, poor people have become undetectable and marginalised. Inequality is the ratio of divergence among high and low-income earners. Socioeconomic inequality relates to variations in financial and social assets that connect the social class and incorporates salaries, income, education, employment and healthcare delivery that add to a feeling of prosperity (Amo-Adjei et al. 2018).

Consequently, inequality evaluations are marked as income or the wellbeing status. Income disparities are directed by social exchanges, taxes, reimbursements and are estimated at the family unit level. Based on these indicators, income inequality is estimated by the Gini coefficient of expendable income. Since the start of the market change in 1991, monetary inequality in Russia has risen rapidly. Between 1990 and 2018, the Gini coefficient of discretionary cash flow in Russia expanded from 0.23 to 0.48 and the distinction between the incomes of high-income earners and least fortunate percentage expanded from 4 to 17 (Anderson, Getmansky & Hirsch-Hoefler 2018; Russell 2018). By implication, one per cent of the Russian population claims 71 per cent of the nation’s wealth. Income inequality has been expanding in many nations, yet barely any growing economy has encountered such an extreme change in income inequality in such a brief timeframe as Russia (Amo-Adjei et al. 2018).

Economic and social disparities are interlinked and intensify each other, energising imbalances in living norms and access to financial, social and health care foundations (Marmot 2016). This anomaly further divides Russia along income and social status lines, thereby widening the inequality gap. An individual’s income and social class dictate his or her access to quality human services in Russia (Toch-Marquardt 2017). Russians are progressively paying for education as private mentoring has taken over the subsidised institutions for advanced education. The percentage of subsidised colleges of education dropped from 65.5 in 2000 to 38.5 in 2016 (Russell 2018). Consequently, the ratio of private educational centres funded by wealthy individuals rose to 36.3 per cent in 2012 compared with 3.8 per cent of low-income earners (Bobkova, Vakhtinab & Simonovac 2016). Inequality in access to education creates a disparity in employment because graduates with lower education are at a higher risk of being utilised for odd jobs. The likelihood of employment is reliant on the locale of habitation since unemployment rates differ among districts. For instance, the statistics on regional unemployment showed 1% unemployment in Moscow and 50% unemployment in Ingushetia (Ardelyanova & Obryvalina 2018).

Imbalances along sexual orientation, inability and residency status are some predisposing factors to inequality in access to employment (Odgers & Adler 2018). Economic inequality, as indicated by the perspectives on the Russian populace prompts disparity under the law. Russians believe the current legal framework defends the premiums of wealthy and persuasive individuals more than the interest of low-income earners. A report revealed that more than 30 per cent of poor and 25 per cent of average income earners had their rights violated (Fink et al. 2017). There is a spotlight on the battle against corruption, which might be credited to the Russian discontent with higher dimensions of financial inequality.

Russian policymakers have begun endeavouring to address income inequality. The measures have primarily involved national economic improvement programs, interregional spending plans and expanded cost of social insurance schemes with an emphasis on weak citizens. The phenomenon of income disparity cannot be acknowledged without the thought of territorial inequality. Provincial inequality has been one of the critical variables, adding to the abnormal state of income disparity in Russia (Gorina, Agadjanian & Zotova 2018). Income, wellbeing and prosperity of an individual are identified with the district of habitation. Thus, the elements of regional disparities during the Soviet regime featured some indicators in financial pointers, for example, GDP, employment rate, income per capita and destitution rate. The assumption that unequal access to health care services and education is legitimate by contrast in income has considerably changed in Russia (Oskrochi, Bani-Mustafa & Oskrochi 2018).

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Inequality in Access to Education

Inequality in access to education is a moderately ongoing challenge in Russia. During the communist rule, education was widespread and free for all income earners. Although free education remains accessible, parents are paying for additional courses and private coaches to enhance the diminishing nature of education and to influence the odds of taking advanced education. Again, the income dimension of a family is a factor of inequality because expanding income disparity converts to imbalances in access to quality education. In the advanced education environment, the circumstance has changed drastically.

During the communist rule, the ratio of self-subsidised learning and freely financed education switched. Since education has become commercialised, the cost of learning focuses on high-income earners. Parents are spending more on their kids’ education, and the proportion of this number is expanding among high-income earners. Because of the high cost of learning, education imbalances are created between the rich and the poor. Spatial disparity characterises a significant factor of inequality in access to education. Noteworthy contrasts in the quality of education among locales, urban and country territories have been observed. Social pointers, for example, handicap status can limit an individuals’ access to education (Hoffmann et al. 2016). Thus, the access of individuals with an inability to proficient and advanced education remains constrained. Inequality in access to learning is an issue for further propagation of income disparity in Russia, considering the role of ‘advanced education’ factor.

Empirical Review

Lim et al. (2018) studied inequality among districts that describes the disparity in the vast land territory of the Russian Federation. The regions with oil and gas resources and human capital during the socialist period profited lopsidedly from the market economy. Price and market development brought along the fast momentary separation in income by area, social stratum and financial status. Shockingly, territories what experienced rapid economic growth also witnessed a remarkable increase in inequality while destitution declined at the same time. As indicated in previous works of literature, districts can benefit from the decline in destitution and rising incomes, yet experience tougher income incongruities at the same time (Lim et al. 2018). The issues stimulating inequality include the non-redistributive financial policy, a frail association of work and differing domain of the Russian Federation (Paul & Valtonen 2016).

Soviet history assumes a deciding influence on inequality. The Soviet government ensured full work and equivalent wages, while social advantages were attached to job offers. However, the instruments of paying wages and giving social services were reorganised and transformed by sharp practices thereby expanding income inequality. This implied that wages varied between successful and failed undertakings. Consequently, individuals had to pay for public services. A standout among the most troublesome difficulties of building a focused market economy was the absence of safety structures because social insurance was customarily given by employers (Ngamaba, Panagioti & Armitage 2018). Tax evasion was another challenge experienced during the Putin era, which created corruption and integrity issues. This paper suggests that the causes of inequality in Russia include a fiscal policy that favours the rich, corruption, regional inequalities and historical events (Ngamaba, Panagioti & Armitage 2018).

Measuring Inequality

Simon Kuznets underscored the prevalence of the family unit on theoretical assumptions. Concern about economic inequality describes how individuals utilise resources. Regardless of whether information limitations compel researchers to evaluate the annual disparity unlike life-cycle inequality, the economist argued for yearly family measurement. The numerator represents the incomes of the family unit and the denominator displays the number of identical shoppers. The economist cautioned against measuring inequality among workers.

The Gini Index

A standout among the methods for estimating inequality is the Gini coefficient. The values range from 0 to 1, with a higher measure indicating higher inequality (Neumayer & Plümper 2016). However, some works of literature on the measures of inequality oppose the Gini coefficient because it captures different segments of the population (low and high-income earners). Additionally, the Gini measurement confounds the disparities concerning work and capital. Researchers recommend distribution tables as a reliable and straightforward representation of imbalances in the public space. Neumayer and Plümper (2016) censures the current estimation of monetary disparity and reveals that inequality can be undervalued because of refusal to participate in income surveys among low and high earners.


Policy Formations and Inequality

Different administrations in Russia have tried to alleviate inequality through policy formulations such as tax reforms and retirement benefits (Fisher et al. 2016). Nevertheless, Russia has experienced net inequality, showing variations in policy enforcement to balance rising market disparity (Yu & Wang 2017). Because of this inequality, tax frameworks have declined with the outcome since high-income family units and enterprises face lower compelling duty rates (Mode, Evans & Zonderman 2016). Fiscal policy is a vital instrument in mitigating inequality. The fiscal approach plays a role in guaranteeing macro-financial security and limits the challenges that lopsidedly hurt the burdened populace (Timonin et al. 2017). Policy redistribution with other macroeconomic goals can improve the income value of the working class and in this manner bolster economic development. The redistributive function of policy strategies could be strengthened by dependence on property tax, increasing income tax assessment, reducing sharp practices of tax avoidance and improving social benefits while limiting productivity costs (Thornhill & Smirnova 2018). Equity and economic growth are enhanced by reducing tax consumption that benefits high-income earners (Ward & Viner 2017).

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The reality of Russia’s inequality is that a small percentage of oligarchs control the country’s net wealth. This percentage (1%) controls the legislators and policy enforcement officers (Timonin et al. 2017). As a result, socioeconomic inequality has become a growing concern in Russia. The energy sector is another factor for income disparity. Few executives control the oil and gas deposits in some parts of the country thereby defrauding the public. Although the government creates policies to help the vulnerable and assist the needy, its enforcement has been hampered by corruption.

Policy Solutions

The uneven asset-based economy does not guarantee advancement and interest for human potential and therefore causes inequality. The difference in the structure of the economy lies in the return of authority to conventional enterprises, growth of small business enterprises, policy enforcement and the fight against corruption. While expanding the cost of social security has been at the focal point of the administration’s approaches, the opposite side of financial strategy such as tax assessment has been missing from the anti-inequality framework. Presently, the Russian tax framework deepens income inequality. Tax avoidance is measured at 43 per cent. Although the administration has been making endeavours to authorise lawful measures against fraudulent executives, there are indications of expanding the number of employment and contract that are informalised. Researchers try to clarify tax avoidance by businesses as a response to the increase of social protection commitments and the low confidence individuals have in the administration’s capacity to utilise the tax income.

Russian policymakers have been reluctant to venture into the zone of tax reforms. The diversion for persevering adherence to one digit income tax by policymakers is that varying income tax would affect the low-income earners. However, this assumption creates informalisation of the employment market and influences tax avoidance. Therefore, rather than encourage a dynamic tax regime, policymakers propose property charges, duties on luxury products and a ‘solidarity charge’ for individuals with exceptionally high incomes. Nevertheless, the means to enforce those duties have been minuscule. In 2013, an expense tax on automobiles was presented; however, the anticipated land property reform was postponed indefinitely (Tan et al. 2018). The role of tax laws in the battle against income inequality is unjustified. A well-planned tax framework can decrease market income inequality, create revenue to support social insurance schemes and services.

Public health care services and education grants have robust redistributive effects (Kangmennaang & Elliott 2018). Nevertheless, the redistributive impact of these administrations remains unrecognised. While the administration has been dynamic in expanding the operating cost of social insurance schemes, public access to human services and education frameworks has been diminishing. The battle against inequality in Russia must be supported by a solid drive to make law enforcement reasonable and impartial to reduce corruption at all dimensions of social establishments. A significant number of the components influencing income inequality depend on the lower dimensions of institutional trust.

Inequality and Corruption

This paper suggests that financial disparity, as indicated by the perspectives on the Russian populace, prompts inequality under the law. Seventy-six per cent of the destitute in Russia affirm that the existing legal framework of the nation secures the premiums of wealthy individuals than the interests of the ordinary citizens (Sui, Feng & Chang 2018). Twenty-nine per cent of needy individuals and 20 per cent of non-destitute individuals revealed that they had their rights have been breached in the past three years (Ardelyanova & Obryvalina 2018). The most widely recognised cases included access to health services and social schemes, work relations and contacts with law enforcement institutions (Ramsey, Svider & Folbe 2017). In 2012, Russia ranked 133 on the Global Corruption Index (Franses & de Groot 2016). Eminently, Russia has a lower rank of corruption than Brazil and China (Franses & de Groot 2016). Although arguments on corruption focus on good governance, it could be contended that the soaring interest in battling corruption is associated with social equity and are identified with wealth and income inequality.


Fiscal policy is a vital instrument for lessening inequality. The fiscal approach plays a role in guaranteeing macro-financial security and limits the challenges that lopsidedly hurt the burdened populace. Policy redistribution with other macroeconomic goals can improve the income value of the working class and in this manner bolster economic development. Fiscal formulations play a role in mitigating income inequality; however, the redistributive function of policy strategies could be strengthened by dependence on riches and property tax, increasing income tax assessment, reducing sharp practices of tax avoidance, improving social benefits while limiting productivity costs. Equity and economic growth are enhanced by reducing tax consumption that benefits high-income earners. The battle against inequality in Russia must be supported by a solid drive to make law requirement reasonable and impartial to reduce corruption at all dimensions of social establishments. A significant number of the components influencing income inequality depend on the lower dimensions of institutional trust. Subsequently, the institutionalised policies, for example, dynamic tax assessment, deoffshorisation and employment in the formal area cannot be actualised in Russia, except the issues of corruption are adequately addressed.

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