Poverty in UkraineIn 2016, Ukraine was ranked as the second-poorest country in Europe, with an average income of $3560 USD. According to the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP’s) latest report, about 60 percent of Ukrainians live below the poverty line.

Poverty in Ukraine significantly worsened due to persistent conflict, ever since it declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The Maidan Revolution was the most recent event that lead to a majority of Ukrainians living below the poverty line. The Revolution broke out around 2013 against the corrupt president who won the presidency in 2010, Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych fled in 2014, which led to Russia annexing Crimea and “stoking a separatist war in Ukraine’s east”. The result of the crisis was thousands of people dead and displaced as well as a near economic collapse. Ukraine experienced a deep recession and high inflation rate in 2015, and is still in the process of recovery.

It is projected that without significant efforts toward recovery, public debt will reach 89 percent of Ukraine’s GDP in 2017. The current pace of recovery since the crisis has been modest. This is due to weaknesses in the services sector as well as weak external demand. Continuing conflict in Eastern Ukraine, the trade blockade with Donbas and the weak global environment are also barriers to recovery.

The World Bank projects that Ukraine’s economic growth will be at 2 percent in 2017, given current fiscal and external vulnerabilities. Due to the trade blockade with Donbas, steel production and electricity generation are two key sectors that most likely will be negatively impacted. Ukraine also faces a fiscal deficit that was 2.2 percent of the GDP in 2016 and will most likely persist in 2017. This is due to lower social security pressures and the increase of minimum wage. Account deficit also widened in 2016 to 3.8 percent of Ukraine’s GDP, due to an increase in imported goods.

Significantly reducing poverty in Ukraine is possible, but reforms are needed to address current vulnerabilities. Growth may be boosted to 4 percent in 2018 through to 2019, given that Ukraine manages to follow through with important reforms.

Haley Hurtt

Photo: Pixabay

Education in Ukraine
Ukraine, despite being independent of the former Soviet Union for 25 years, continues to experience trials as a sovereign state. Although the Ukrainian economy has performed phenomenally over the past decade, recent data from the World Bank shows a GDP growth rate of around -10 percent, with inflation soaring at 50 percent. With poverty rates expected to increase, it is crucial that education in Ukraine improves so that students grow into productive employees ready to transform the economy.

According to the United Nation Development Programme’s 2013 Education Index, Ukraine is ranked #83 out of 187 countries, falling behind its neighbors Romania, Russia and Belarus.

Although the system of education in Ukraine requires all children to attend school for twelve years, a UNICEF study points out that enrollment in primary education is 83 percent — lower than most rates in other Central and Eastern European countries.

Low school enrollment rates in Ukraine can be predominantly attributed to rural poverty. Families prefer to send their children to work on their farms instead of going to school, and many do not have the resources to get their children to school in the first place.

To boost enrollment in rural areas, the Ukrainian government introduced a school bus initiative to ensure children have a reliable way of getting to school.

While plans were made to expand educational opportunities for all children in Ukraine, many students doubt the quality of their high school degrees.

In a survey run by UNICEF and the IRC, one recent graduate said, “A diploma is one thing and education is another… Learning things that can be used in life is different from what they teach you at school. Even if I finish school and try to find a job I will not know what a CV is, but it is required…  These are simple life skills; they have nothing in common with a good education.” Many other interviewed students expressed similar sentiments.

It is clear that Ukrainian students feel unprepared to enter the workforce. Even more troubling, however, are Ukraine’s technical schools. Students who attend vocational schools do so to learn a specific trade. A large number of technical schools in Ukraine, however, were created under Soviet rule and the curriculums have not been updated to suit modern times.

This is a major issue, especially since the enrollment rates in vocational institutions are so high. Consequently, more and more young Ukrainians are going to technical schools, thinking they are well-prepared for a career in their desired trade, only to find out their technical skills are archaic and undesirable.

As Ukraine struggles with its weakening financial situation, its graduates are also lacking the skills necessary to restart the economy. Meanwhile, estimates suggest that poverty in Ukraine is on the rise. Thus now, more than ever, it is imperative to reform education in Ukraine. By transforming Ukraine’s current educational system, the country can spur productivity, growth and increase quality of life.

Kristina Evans

Photo: Flickr