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Economic insecurity drags on in Ukraine: ILO survey shows millions in distress

Article | 18 February 2004

KIEV – According to a new ILO survey, Ukraine's population remains mired in poverty and insecurity, twelve years after the country became independent, with a monthly income of less than US$100 per capita, and with no less than 40 per cent of wage earners being owed a backlog of wages.

These results are shown from the latest People's Security Survey, conducted by the ILO and the State Committee of Statistics of Ukraine. The national survey of over 9,000 adults found that average income is less than what most estimated is required for a subsistence standard of living.

As for the non-payment of wages, the percentage of workers not receiving their contractual wages was higher in 2003 than found in an earlier survey, conducted in 2002. As then, the worst affected sector was agriculture.

Speaking at an international conference in Kiev on December 16-17, organized by the Government, the ILO and the UNDP, Guy Standing, Director of the ILO's Socio-Economic Security Programme, said that "the worst aspect shown in this year's survey was the sense of apathy and pessimism among almost all groups in society".

Among the main results presented at the conference were the following:

  • About 85 per cent of adults felt that their household income was insufficient to cover for their healthcare needs;
  • Over four in every five adults expected their financial situation in old age to be bad or very bad;
  • More people felt "badly off" than was the case in 2002: only one in every 20 people thought their family income would improve in the coming year;
  • Most people had little or no trust in government agencies to do much about their plight;
  • Less than half of the unemployed receive regular unemployment benefits, and of those the average replacement rate is less than 50 per cent of their previous wage;
  • Scarcely surprisingly, over two-thirds of the employed were dissatisfied with their wage levels, and over half were dissatisfied with their enterprise benefits;
  • Workers were staying in their jobs largely because they saw no chance of obtaining another;
  • Only one in five workers were confident about retaining their employment over the next 12 months;
  • Only a small minority can use, or have access to, a computer;
  • Widespread apathy or anomic reactions characterize the attitude of most workers, most saying that they would take no action in response to unpaid wages or other adverse developments in their jobs.
"In spite of all these adverse developments, Ukrainians appear to have retained a sense of social solidarity", comments Guy Standing. Asked about their attitude to various social issues, a very large majority said that human rights were very important, along with personal independence and adherence to the law.

There was support for a reduction in the extent of inequality, and nearly two-thirds expressed support for a minimum income for every citizen of Ukraine. Nearly nine out of ten workers supported equal wages for men and women, and over three-quarters expressed support for equal wages for citizens and legal immigrants.

"In short, social and other values are persisting in economically insecure circumstances", concludes Guy Standing.