We hear almost every day about the “poorest country in Europe” – from TV, from politicians who speculate on “impoverishment”, and from ordinary citizens in queues, transport and public institutions. The study of poverty rate in Ukrainian society has become the topic of numerous studies by sociological centers and public organizations. One such study «The culture of poverty» was conducted by scholars from the Association of Middle East Studies and the analytical center UCU with the support of the Renaissance Foundation. However, there are some reasons not to speak about poverty as a total phenomenon.
I studied this research thoroughly, read an interview with its authors, and here is what I would like to say from my own observations. I agree with scientists to a great extent – there are objective and subjective reasons of low standard of living. Although it is said about Kherson region in the study, and the situation in Donetsk region is objectively worse because of the war, we still have a lot of obvious “complaining”.
I live in the city where there are more opportunities than in the village, but I still believe that the overwhelming care of numerous charities and volunteers to people affected by the war, has a lot of negative consequences. It is very large field for speculation. It is one thing to help a lonely grandmother, and completely another thing is to help 40-50-year-old man who does not want to change his life and improve his financial situation.
First of all, I would like to refer to the category of the objectively poor only those people who, due to their physical abilities, cannot work and live on a disability pension, lonely retired people over 70 years old who are unable to work for a health reason with a minimum pension, and orphaned children. In my opinion, the assistance must be provided to these categories at all levels. Just because. Now we will discuss those who can work.
I would divide the able-bodied into groups: those who are looking for reasons and those who are looking opportunities. To begin with, (and it is said in the sociological survey) the vast majority of people play cunning when are talking about their financial situation, trying to diminish their incomes, saying Soviet-style phrase “the state must, the state is obliged” that still cannot be eradicated. Those who are looking for reasons will blame everybody but himself/herself. At the same time will buy cars, useless “plasma TVs”, smartphones and “needlessness”, because a neighbor has it. They will live on a minimum subsistence wage, but at the same time buy expensive things, because to have cloths from a second hand is ashamed. They will get into debt and credit, but not get a job or two jobs to raise money for the right thing. They will complain of low incomes, but they will keep silent about bonuses and premiums, night and holiday payments. They will curse displaced persons as competitors for social assistance, but they will not stop attacking social services and charitable organizations in order not to work. They will be counting pittance, and putting money under the pillow every month, because it is for a “rainy day” for which not much is needed (this is a matter of financial literacy!). By the way, this concerns some old people – they sometimes live in poverty, but are able to raise so much money that not every young man will dream about.
“The availability of social assistance, benefits and subsidies is both a help from the state and an everyday “trick” of an average person who loses their status as a clear identifier of poverty,” – the authors of the study write. It is hard to disagree.
Well, the state also owed people a lot. Most programs, including social programs, do not work; exist on paper or, even worse, only in words. But this is not a cause, as they say, to include themselves into the poor people and to complain about the circumstances.
Because of work, I often visit villages on the demarcation line and always wonder how in the same circumstances people organize their lives differently. There are gyms and solar batteries in one community, in the other there are only abandoned houses, sadness and queues for the humanitarian aid.
Of course, everything is relative. Some believe that 36 thousand hryvnias is a little sum to raise a child, while others cope with the income of 5 thousand hryvnias and do not complain. Having lack of money – they are looking for a job, starting a business, receiving grants, sewing, knitting, cross stitching, or growing garlic for sale in their garden. Each of us has seen such examples during the 6 years of war. What I mean, all of this depends on what goals a person sets for himself/herself, how much he or she needs to achieve them, and in what category – poor or average earner – it is more comfortable for them to live.
For those who consider migrants a trigger, a permanent irritant and the cause of all the troubles, a competitor for getting jobs and social benefits – 442 hryvnias from the state have not yet changed the situation by anyone. By the way, I propose to do the following: close your eyes, imagine in your hands two bags in which you will take everything from a past life. You will no longer have neither an apartment, nor car, fridge, or many other things, without which it would seem impossible to live without and that have been earned for more than a decade. Start your life with a clean sheet. Then be able to get out of this situation. Again. At least to the level of being able to pay for housing, dress according to needs, eat well, provide children with education, buy that ill-starred refrigerator or a cup with a plate that remind you of home. Then let us talk.
We are all different: the intellectuals and the factory workers, the villagers and the citizens, the migrants, the locals and even the homeless. Everyone has his or her own understanding of poverty and wealth. But totally poor is absolute minority. Not everything in life is measured quantitatively, there are also qualitative indicators. Zero, in the language of mathematicians, is not the limit – there are negative numbers. Do you want to live well? Go to work, look for a job for your soul and for a wage. Look for two work places. Maybe is it enough to pretend to be poor?
Halyna MIROSHNICHENKO, Dobropillia, for the GROMADA Skhid site