UNICEF rings alarm bells on child poverty in the Russian Federation
MOSCOW, 15 November, 2005: Families with children account for most of the poor in Russia, and having more than one child increases the chances of being poor by more than 50%, according to a new report launched in Moscow today, “Child Poverty in Russia: Alarming Trends and Policy Options.”
“There is no reason for any child in the Russian Federation to be poor,” said Maria Calivis, UNICEF Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States.
“With a robustly growing economy and a shrinking child population, Russia can well afford to protect its children from poverty. But current policies are actually concentrating poverty among children – those who will suffer the greatest long-term damage.”
The report finds that social support is not geared towards the families with children. In 1991, family and maternity benefits accounted for 77% of all social benefits. By 2003 this had fallen to around 32%. Moreover, the size of a monthly child benefit amounts to only 3,3% of the child subsistence minimum.
The report also raises concerns that Federal Law 122, which devolves power to the regions, may lead to increased child poverty in regions facing economic problems. UNICEF asks how regions that already have high levels of poverty will generate the revenue to finance child benefit.
A call for action
UNICEF calls for significantly greater investment in children, providing policy options to reduce child poverty over the next three years. The report makes the following proposals:
Suggestion One: (in the short-term): Increase benefits for children from poor families to 25% of the subsistence minimum, with the minimum wage going up to 50% of the subsistence minimum. Such investment would decrease poverty by 4 per cent and lead to an increase in income of 1.2%, thus posing little risk to inflation.
Suggestion Two: (to be carried out over the next three years): Raise the minimum wage to 100% of the subsistence minimum, with benefits for children going up to 50% of the subsistence minimum.
These two steps would lift 8.5% of the Russian population out of poverty, the majority being families with children.
For more information:
John Brittain, Communication Officer, UNICEF Russian Federation, Tel: (+7095) 933 8818, email: email@example.com