The study found that only 15% of Russians think their households have a better quality of life, compared with 30% in 2010 when respondents were last asked, and only 9% see their finances as better than four years ago.
Just over half the respondents from former Soviet states also thought a return to a more authoritarian system would be a plus in some circumstances, said the findings from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the World Bank said.
The EBRD, created 25 years ago to invest in former communist countries, questioned households across ex-Soviet bloc for more than a decade for its “Life in Transition” project, polling 51,000 households in 34 countries from Estonia to Mongolia.
They did find the “happiness gap” with western Europe had narrowed, thanks to improvements in central Asia, the Baltic states and central Europe, but also because of less satisfaction in parts of Europe, including Germany and Italy.
The findings resonated with increasing evidence in 2016 – ranging from Britain’s vote to quit the European Union and Donald Trump’s US election win – of dissatifaction with some of the effects of globalisation.
The EBRD chief economist Sergei Guriev said the study also showed countries could only successfully transition from command economies to more open-market systems if that process was “perceived by the public as being fair and of benefit to the majority”.
“If the public does not see the benefits of the reforms they will ultimately not be successful,” he said.
Guriev said one of the biggest factors in people’s lower life satisfaction was losing their jobs. Governments therefore needed to make sure workers learned new skills, he said.
He also said the the survey showed people’s appreciation of democracy and open market economics was wavering.
“Right now in most of our countries the majority doesn’t seem to prefer democracy over authoritarian rule, whereas in Germany 80% do,” Guriev said.
“That raises big, big questions. What has gone wrong and what should be done?”
Author: Reuters in London