The number of Russians with incomes below the minimum cost of living increased by an estimated 1.1 percent in 2011 to 18.1 million people, the Federal State Statistics Service (Rostat) reported on Thursday.
This represents 12.8 percent of Russia’s population, currently at some 145 million.
Russia’s current minimum wage is about 4,600 rubles ($155) per month, while the minimum cost of living per capita is around 6,200 rubles ($210).
Huge income disparity remains Russia’s “main problem,” with the earnings of the richest Russians being 16 times higher than those of the poorest citizens, President-elect Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.
“Over the past few years, this gap has virtually not become smaller,” Putin, the current prime minister, told the State Duma in his last annual report to parliament before his inauguration as president in May.
He also said Russians’ minimum wages should be increased to the level of the minimum cost of living “over the next few years.”