42% of Russians consider themselves poor

MOSCOW, June 22 (RIA Novosti) - Almost half of the Russian population, 42% or 61 million people, considers itself to be poor, an authoritative daily, Izvestia, reported today.

The newspaper cites figures made public on Tuesday at the presentation of a report, "Poverty in Russia: Economic Analysis," based on a survey conducted in May by sociologists from the Levada Center and commissioned by the FBK audit and consulting company.

One fourth of those who consider themselves poor are aged between 16 and 30. Moreover, young people represent the only category of the population whose share among the poor (those with incomes below the subsistence level) has been increasing since 1992.

According to FBK experts, the authorities, absorbed by the official statistics, have not taken this fact into account. They show that the number of "genuinely poor" people in Russia has been steadily falling, and by the end of 2004 had reached 25.5 million left.

Igor Nikolayev, the director of the FBK strategic analysis department, said: "People's sentiments do not depend on how many poor citizens the state says there are, but on how they feel."

In fact, different polls conducted by the Levada Center and ROMIR Monitoring show the same results: 40-42% of the population said say considered themselves to be poor.

A majority of citizens (61%) said that the best way to combat poverty was to increase welfare payments (wages, pensions, scholarships). But as soon as respondents' personal income exceeds 9,000 rubles ($315), the number of those who put the responsibility for improving their prosperity on the state fell drastically, to almost 38%.

On the contrary, the share of those who agreed that people should take care of their own prosperity, without shifting their problems on the state and society, tripled, the newspaper wrote.

The state, in turn, is quietly getting rid of other people's problems. Highly publicized announcements about increased social spending from the federal budget have overshadowed a telling fact: so far the population's real incomes have not reached the level of 1991.

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