MOSCOW, June 14 (RIA Novosti) – President Vladimir Putin on Thursday described the main difference he sees between social welfare in Russia and in European countries, which he criticized for losing control of their economies and allowing the rise of a “dependency mentality,” according to an interview with RIA Novosti.
Europe’s problem is not the welfare state as such, but “inefficiency,” Putin said in answers to written questions.
While a modern state must honor its obligation “to take care of its population and ensure its social protection” or face the risk of collapse, European countries have been “living beyond their means” and are now “witnessing the rise of a dependency mentality … [that] endangers not only the economy but the moral foundation of society,” Putin said. “It is no secret that many citizens of less developed countries come to Europe specifically to live on social welfare.”
In contrast, Putin praised Russia’s low unemployment and real wage growth, saying that these, plus the growth of consumer spending and bank lending, are the basic factors stimulating the country’s economy.
“We made our choice long ago. We will not renounce our social obligations,” Putin said of the Russian state.
He did not address either the hidden fees that permeate nominally free services like healthcare and public education or the criticism leveled at his push for higher social spending, which some economists say is possible only as long as the country’s budget is propped up by high oil prices.
As in many European countries, the number of people in Russia dependent on social handouts is rising, while the working population is contracting, according to the World Bank. Moreover, Russia’s working-age population is expected to shrink by one million people a year until 2017, the World Bank said in February.