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Social Disparity - How It Is Perceived


Responses to the following questions: “How legitimate are in citizens’ opinion the methods of income distribution in the society? To what extent is the existing disparity justified in public opinion?” are given by recently published findings of the international surveys conducted in 25 countries of the world.

The first group of questions related to income differences, hostility between the rich and the poor, and the concept that big income differences are needed for the country’s prosperity. Investigated countries are naturally divided into capitalist ones (USA, Norway, Great Britain, etc.), where 20 to 30 percent of respondents consider income differences to be too high, and the countries with transition economy (from the territory of Eastern Germany through Russia), where 44 to 82 percent of population share the same point of view.

Japan is located “en route”, as 36 percent of the population share the same opinion, and among the countries with transition economy, Eastern Germany and Poland are located on the one side (closer to capitalists), and Bulgaria and Russia are on the other side. The conflict between the rich and the poor and comprehension of the necessity in income differences are arranged in a more complicated manner.

For example, the Norwegians, Czechs and Japanese believe that hostility is relatively low, and the Hungarians, Russians and Letts estimate it to be high. However, it is unclear if hostility is really high or “tolerance” of it is low. Capitalist thinking is peculiar to the Germans, Japanese, Americans and Poles who assume that income differences are needed. The Slovenes, Hungarians, Bulgarians and Russians are closer to the opposite position.

The second group of questions dealt with promotion in social career. The major importance for promotion belongs, in the opinion of the Bulgarians, Poles, Slovenes and Eastern Germans, to ties and relationship, and in the Russians’ opinion – to bribes. The last answer is perfectly expected, in this regard the Russians significantly overpass all others (naturally, Bulgaria is the closest to the Russia’s position).

Russia dominates in the share of those countries that believe that labor is not properly appreciated – in Russia this share makes 45 percent. The closest position in this area is occupied by the Poles (37 percent), and the farthest position is taken by the Norwegians, British, Czechs and Eastern Germans (8 to 12 percent). Reaction to differences may be dissimilar: some may believe that they are guilty themselves, and some may blame the state.

The highest share of citizens who believe that the state must decrease income differences is gained in Russia (59 percent) and Bulgaria (56 percent), and the lowest share is in the USA and Western Germany (10 to 12 percent).

However, the following is curious: in Great Britain, USA, Russia and Latvia, the majority of citizens agree that the people with higher income can use better medical services and provide better education for their children (25 to 40 percent). That is, the Russians assume that they have undeservedly little money, but they apparently hope that some time in the future they will have more money and then they will spend the money sensibly – on healthcare and education. In contrast to the comrades from the former socialist camp – the Hungarians, Eastern Germans and Czechs –who seem to have lost the hope already.

Sergey Komarov | alfa
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