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    More than half Russia's population are poor--survey

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    MOSCOW, August 18 (RIA Novosti) - A survey conducted by a leading Russian pollster indicates that as many as 60% of the country's population live in poverty, Argumenty i Fakty, a weekly digest, reported Thursday.

    By interviewing a sample of 15,000 adults from 408 urban and rural communities across the nation, ROMIR Monitoring found out that most of Russia's working poor, with monthly incomes below $110, are rural inhabitants employed in the public sector. Pensioners are the least advantaged group, regardless of the status achieved during their careers, said Tatyana Gurova, a research fellow at Romir Monitoring. The poor constantly struggle to make ends meet and expect the authorities to provide order and social justice, but do not care much about civil liberties and private enterprise, she said.

    On the other hand, a middle class seems to be emerging in Russia. According to sociologists, 25% of the country's working population can now be classified in this group. ROMIR's Mikhail Tarusin said it was this population group that the government should rely on for support. "These people feel comfortable in the new Russia. They are constantly improving their standard of living and their professional skills are in demand," he said.

    Low-income citizens, by contrast, cannot contribute to market reforms because of their social status and often fall victim to the government's economic experiments, such as the recent attempt to replace benefits in-kind with cash payments, Tarusin said. "Society, which is ready for development in new conditions, is facing an immature elite and the lack of competent strategic governance," he said.

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