Subculture of poverty in Ukraine and its causes

What is the “culture (subculture)” of poverty? Why do the “poor” find themselves in a “loop” of their own survival strategy? How to help the “poor” to see the prospect of their development?

These and other difficult questions were raised during the pilot study on the topic “Subculture of Poverty in Ukraine”. This topic needs to be elaborated further, in order to develop a clear understanding of the problem and to offer reasonable solutions.

On October 9, the Center for Middle East Studies and the International Renaissance Foundation presented the results of this study.

During the year, experts studied the subculture of poverty by conducting in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. The project geography: Kherson region (cities of Skadovsk and Chaplinka).

Stanislav Lyachinsky, Director of the International Renaissance Foundation’s Social Capital Program:

«Мене дуже вразили результати дослідження – наскільки вони схожі на те, що бачать фахівці у різних країнах. Причини, через які люди опиняються у ситуації бідності, можуть бути різними. Часом це безвихідна життєва ситуація, часом – результат власної поведінки. Гадаю, результати дослідження потрібно донести до органів влади та інших інституцій, які можуть вплинути на вирішення цих проблем”.

Reforms in modern Ukraine are staggered over so many opposing worldviews and behavioral attitudes, driven not so much by poverty itself, but also by a specific “poverty culture (subculture)”. The “poverty culture (subculture)” is a way of life for a large number of people that becomes hereditary. The formation of such a culture is driven by both structural factors, as well as by people’s subjective feelings.

Dmytro Zvonok, a social psychologist at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, explained why the idea of ​​this research came up:

«Попрацювавши в центрах зайнятості, ми стикнулися з тим, що лише одна людина знаходиться в центрі зайнятості з метою пошуку роботи. Всі інші не шукають насправді роботу. Нам стало цікаво чому і відповідно ми почали це обговорювати.
Зрештою зіткнулися з феноменом бідності».

The study focused mostly on the subjective parameters of poverty. The experts tried to find out an average person’s perception of the social structure in Ukraine, how he or she evaluates his or her own place in it; how people construct “their” vs “not their” social groups based on the level of income; what the main “areas of discomfort” are for an average person, and where they, first and foremost, begin to feel that they are short of money; what possible ways of overcoming poverty exist out there, from the perspective of the respondents.

Oksana Mikheeva, Project Manager, Full Doctor of History, Professor, told about an interesting fact from the study, which clearly points to the essence of the problem:

“We asked our respondents to draw up a table, in which they would have to describe their functionality at work, how much they receive per hour of work and how much they would like to receive. Almost all respondents do not understand what they are doing at work, in other terms, they are not aware of their job responsibilities. Out of 60 respondents, only one person was able to answer the question of how much he or she receives per hour of work. It all points out to the inefficiency of the work process”.

In the course of the study, the experts had respondents simulate a situation that they could change their job for a job that pays more money, but leaves them much less free time, including time they would spend on household needs or personal garden.

“The choice of job in agricultural regions is guided by the reasoning that the work should allow a person to have time to milk the cow, to work in the garden …”, – said Dmytro Zvonok, a social psychologist, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies.

Experts also noted that one of the results of the study was the discovery that people actually do not “live from the garden”, but spend a lot of time and energy working in it.

The choice of Kherson region was motivated by the phenomenon of “instant poverty” of a large number of people, as a result of annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by the Russian Federation. As a result, much of the established economic strategies of local residents have undergone significant transformations. Two cities of district importance were selected, each of them having a different specificity, though. The economic life of the population in the city of Chaplinka is more related to agricultural production, whereas the residents of Skadovsk are more dependent on the resort business in summer time.

Oksana Mikheeva drew attention to the fact that Ukraine needs social psychologists, who could work with chronic fatigue, depression, with situations, when a person does not see the prospects for his or her development.

As noted by the project implementers, this study is a pilot study, without claiming to be exhaustive, but it does offer tools to study subjective parameters of poverty, raising questions about key parameters and causes of the wide-spread nature of poverty in the present day Ukraine, and providing an opportunity to focus on key observations and propose solutions.

Spelling error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: