Members' Research Service By / April 22, 2022

Human development in Putin’s Russia: What the data tell us

Vladimir Putin is serving his fourth term as Russian president. He has now been at the helm for over 22 years, if we factor in his tenure as acting president over the first months of 2000 and his premiership from 2008 to 2012.

© Savvapanf Photo / Adobe Stock

Written by Eric Pichon and Martin russell.

While the UN Human Development Index, which assesses progress in the standard of living, health and education, ranks Russia among the ‘very high human development’ countries, other data suggest a more nuanced reality.

Russia has gone from Soviet-era egalitarianism to extremes of wealth and poverty. Economic growth during the first decade under Vladimir Putin’s leadership slightly reduced the gap between rich and poor, but inequality is still higher than in most developed countries. Factors such as corruption and low taxes for the rich exacerbate the income gap. Free public healthcare and a relatively inclusive education system apparently mitigate inequality. However, many hospitals are ill-equipped, and universities struggle to compare with foreign counterparts.

Since 2014 and the invasion of Crimea, Russians’ living conditions have deteriorated. Russia’s war of aggression on Ukraine and the imposition of Western sanctions is already placing a burden on the poorest members of Russian society, as prices increase and staple goods begin to run out. The social contract between Russians and Putin, often considered as one in which citizens ceded certain freedoms and civil liberties in exchange for stability and prosperity, is now under strain.

This briefing is partly based on and updates previous EPRS publications on socioeconomic inequality and on the education system.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Human development in Putin’s Russia: What the data tell us‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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