No one wants a ‘hand out’
By Irina Andros, a candidate of sociological sciences
At present, most citizens occupy economically active life position, as seen from the Public Opinion survey conducted by the National Academy of Sciences’ Sociology Institute. The annual poll is one of the most authoritative sources of empiric sociological data.
Being asked ‘What will you do if your material condition significantly worsens in the near future?’ more than half of the respondents said they would search for new opportunities to improve their situation, searching for a way out of their difficulty. These can be called ‘active economists’. In addition, 21 percent of those polled are ‘passive economists’, saying they would ‘wait and see’ what might happen. Almost the same number (23 percent) could not decide on a course of action and these can be defined as ‘doubting economists’.
As far as the financial and economic crisis is concerned, many Belarusians state that they are feeling their budget pinched. The survey highlighted major concerns during the crisis year of 2009. The first group of problems, conventionally called ‘Dobrobyt’ (Welfare), embraced housing problems and salaries. The second group included worries about health, while the third dealt with the ‘consumer minimum’, since people with low incomes find that their welfare is most dependant on the cost of utilities, food and essential goods.
The first of the three least important problems is the issue of ‘self-preservation’. Those people who adhere to the principle ‘I’m responsible for myself, my family and my country’ usually have positive attitudes regarding the quality and availability of medical services, as well as provision of personal security and ecological stability. The next concern is linked to finances: the payment of salaries and pensions on time and concerns over job loss.
Under crisis conditions, Belarusians were most worried about housing issues, utility tariffs, the quality and availability of medical services, payment of salaries and pensions on time and inflation. These problems have remained acute for the last few years but the world financial crisis has affected Belarus less from a social aspect, as the state has created a buffer for those who might otherwise have suffered.