Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Belarus
Belarus is a country in Eastern Europe bordering Russia and Ukraine. Instead of integrating with the rest of the region, the country, known popularly as “White Russia”, is the last dictatorship in Europe. In the text below, top 10 facts about poverty in Belarus are presented.

Top 10 Facts about Poverty in Belarus

  1. In the 1990s, Belarus was one of the poorest countries in Europe due to the collapse of the USSR socialist system. Around 50 percent of the population lived below the poverty line at the time. It concerned the population so much that the campaign slogan of Belarus politician Aliaksandr Lukashenka in 1994 was to “take people away from the abyss”. He was a presidential candidate and he won the election that year.
  2. The proportion of people living in poverty fell from 60 percent in 2000 to less than 1 percent in 2013. This decrease in poverty headcount outpaced the general rate in Europe and Central Asia that started with 47 percent of people living in poverty in 2000 and decreased to 14 percent in 2013.
  3. The highest rate of economic growth that Belarus underwent was during the 2006-2011 period when many countries in Europe experienced the effects of the financial crisis. The bottom 40 percent of the people in most of the European countries saw their incomes fall massively, but in Belarus, the expenditures amongst the bottom 40 percent actually increased.
  4. The main causes of economic growth have been Russia’s favorable pricing of energy as well as economic growth that country’s nearby trading partners achieved. This fact heavily stimulated the agricultural and mining industries.
  5. Not everyone has reaped the benefits of this so-called “inclusive” growth. Recently, the distribution of wealth has begun to favor the already rich people with the poorest people still remaining economically immobile. In 2010, 20 percent of the richest Belarusians owned 36.7 percent of the total wealth. In 2016, this figure has jumped to 38.8 percent.
  6. Unemployment is a major problem in Belarus especially considering that less than 10 percent of unemployed people are not receiving welfare benefits. The benefits themselves are meager in real terms, ranging between $12 to $24, according to economist Aliksandr Chubrik.
  7. There is also a widening gap in the incomes between those who live in Minsk, the capital city of the country, and the outlying regions. According to the data released by the government, the poor constitute only 1.4 percent of the population in Minsk whereas they constitute 5.9 percent of those in the Homiel Region.
  8. In 2017, plans were announced to introduce a “social parasite tax” for the unemployed to discourage them from being work-shy and to instill discipline in those without jobs. It was first signed into law in 2015, then known as “freeloaders tax” that proposed a fine for people who went 6 months without a job. If one failed to pay the levy or find a job within 6 months, that person would be jailed.
  9. Belarus also faces challenges in containing tuberculosis (TB) and HIV/AIDS crises. Fortunately, the UNDP is providing health care assistance to those affected in the country. The government has recently received grants from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS and the Ministry of Health in Belarus.
  10. Human trafficking in Belarus has been in the constant decrease. This has been achieved by collaboration between the World Bank and the Government of Belarus and by creating the Country Partnership Strategy. This strategy was designed to increase employment in the energy, transport, forestry and public finance management sectors to attract more people into those that risk their lives in trafficking.

Despite the reforms and efforts that have been achieved, Belarus is in desperate need of internal and external reform. It needs to create a stable social security system that will allow social mobility rather than punishing people for being poor and reaching a more equitable society for all.

– Maneesha Khalae

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Belarus
The prevalence of poverty in Belarus has made a significant shift in the past decades, for the better. The number of people living in poverty dropped from 60 percent in 2000 to less than 1 percent in 2013. This dramatic change was largely due to an economic boom in Belarus. Fast forward a few years later to a period of less economic growth and one in which poverty is a problem once more. The following is a look at the progress made in addressing poverty in Belarus once more.

Current Economy in Belarus

Great economic growth has allowed Belarus to preserve high levels of employment and good wages for workers. A recent recession, however, has contributed to rates of poverty climbing once again. The economies of the Vitsiebsk region declined by 3.2 percent during the first half of 2017 and the Mahiliou region’s declined by 2.6 percent. In 2014, the average Belarus citizen made $7,500 annually but now the average Belarusan makes $4,000.

According to the World Bank, there are four major factors that contribute to poverty:

  • living in rural areas
  • youth
  • unemployment
  • lack of education

Unemployment and Current Poverty Crisis

In Belarus, unemployment is the most prevalent factor that affects poverty. Many complain that Belarus does not have an adequate social protection program for the unemployed. Additionally, the World Bank deduced in 2012 that the reported employment rate in Belarus, 0.5 percent, was actually seven times higherMany Belarusians opt to not register as unemployed precisely because of the lack of government benefits. It is due to this that the World Bank reported the unemployment numbers as so skewed.

In the winter of 2017, around 20,000 Belarusians gathered to march against their government’s tax on the unemployed. The law required people who work less than 183 days out of the year to pay the government $250 each year. Thanks to the protests, however, the Belarusian government opted not to require citizens to pay that year. Unemployment is clearly still contributing to poverty levels, as can be seen from the number of people who protested the unemployment tax. Those living below the poverty line were not being provided for by their government.

Thankfully, the unemployment tax was officially canceled in January of this year. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka canceled the tax, announcing that instead, unemployed citizens will have to pay in full for government services and they will not receive subsidies.

A Focus on the Positive

Belarus would benefit substantially from alleviating the issue of poverty in the nation. With poverty comes a higher rate of disease and a perpetual cycle that locks families into low-income statuses for generations. Although poverty in Belarus has ameliorated significantly, the country is not entirely out of the dark. The good news, however, is that conditions in Belarus are significantly better than the 1990s when poverty levels were much higher.

The amount of people living in poverty in Belarus is now 10 times less than it was in the 1990s. The country has come a long way but must continue to do everything in its power to keep poverty levels low. The government is a powerful tool in this fight, and they have the ability to create instant change such as amending laws surrounding the benefits unemployed people receive.

With a lack of government assistance, those unemployed in Belarus will have no ability to mobilize themselves out of poverty. An amendment to the program provided for the unemployed in Belarus could considerably contribute to progress against poverty. This is just one of many steps to be taken that would positively influence poverty rates in Belarus.

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Belarus
Though poverty in Belarus has declined over time, the reduction in poverty is superficial – destitution still permeates throughout the nation. A significant contributor to this unyielding poverty is government-mandated wages that have outpaced productivity, a policy under which economic stability is nearly impossible.

Situated in lowlands speckled with forests, rivers and lakes, Belarus is landlocked Eastern European country bordered by both Russia and Ukraine. Formerly known as “White Russia,” Belarus has suffered and continues to suffer from economic hardships.


Poverty in Belarus: Implications and Solutions


Lonely Planet refers to Belarus as the “outcast” of Eastern Europe because rather than integrating with the rest of the continent, the nation is staunch in its effort to remain physically and politically isolated. For instance, rather than converting to a capitalist system, the tiny nation remains entrenched in a historical dictatorship, earning Belarus the title “the last dictatorship in Europe.”

However, Belarus’ economic model has fallen short of meeting the needs of its people. Although the rate of poverty in Belarus in one of the lowest in Europe, residents still grapple with squalor. For example, approximately 27.1% of Belarus residents have a per capita gross domestic product that falls below the poverty threshold. Additionally, 17.8% of these individuals also live below the minimum level required to sustain themselves.

In order to reduce income inequality within the population, Belarus has embarked on a set of reformative initiatives. For example, reforms in education, health and social benefits have taken place. However, these initiatives must be strengthened in order to truly sustain the needs of the nation.

Furthermore, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has undertaken a poverty reduction agenda in Belarus that consists of initiatives to bolster small businesses, thereby stimulating economic growth and expansion. Specifically, the UNDP endeavors to strengthen agricultural businesses in order to revitalize rural Belarus, an area of the nation that has been hit particularly hard by poverty.

These business initiatives are critical in not just Belarus, but in also other former Soviet territories that have not adapted well to the transition from collective farming to privatized farming. For instance, as part of its agenda, the UNDP has established the Rural Business Development Center outside the Minsk, the capital of Belarus. The Development Center is the official location for the redevelopment of collective farms into competitive enterprises.

With the aid of the UNDP and the deepening of Belarus’ already-present reformative initiatives, the “outcast of Eastern Europe” holds the potential to reform itself into a more vibrant and economically-prosperous nation.

Phoebe Pradhan

Sources: Info Please, Lonely Planet, Borgen Project
Photo: IFRC