Capabilities and the insecurity of young Russians: Narrowing the capability gap and reducing inequalities : a qualitative study on 15-18 year old young people from Saint Petersburg, the Leningrad and the Novgorod regions

Kuzmina K (2012)
Bielefeld: Universität Bielefeld.

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Bielefeld Dissertation | English
Supervisor
Otto, Hans-Uwe ; Ziegler, Holger
Abstract
The issues of justice and equality of real opportunities are very important for modern Russia, where different elements of inequality exist. While there are many studies of the changes in young people’s values, behaviour; influence of family socio-economic background and territorial barriers to educational and professional strategies, and the well-being of families with children, there is a great lack of research on real opportunities young people have and choose in order to lead the life they have reason to value. The aim of the study is to understand the extent of freedom young people have in order to achieve valued states and activities in the present socio-economic and political conditions in Russia. For this, it is necessary to deeply explore: 1) how young people assess social arrangements and whether social arrangements create a space of opportunities and freedoms for a prosperous and valuable life or a space of constraints and curtailed freedoms; 2) what combinations of opportunities do young people from different regions and settlements and with different socio-economic background have and why, and what opportunities are they free to choose; 3) under what conversion factors is a capability set formed and under what conversion factors do young people choose from a capability set. The study uses the capability approach (Sen 1980, 1992; Nussbaum 2000), a theoretical framework, which is new for research on quality of life, individual well-being and inequalities in Russia. The capability approach shifts attention to individuals and their lives and explores what makes people’s life good and why in some societies individuals cannot live the life they have reason to value. It gives a new perspective on young people’s lives in Russia and throws light on the inequalities that impede young people from living a successful and prosper life in Russia. The study focuses on young people at the age of 15-18 who come from better off and low-income families, living in small towns of the Northwest of Russia and in the big economically developed city of Saint Petersburg. The choice of such an age framework is mostly conditioned by the particularities of Russian educational system. Both data analysis and data collection are based on problem-centred interview (Witzel 1985, 1995, 2000), but steps of data analysis are intertwined with an application of the capability perspective. The current study specified the capability to be healthy and the capability to be well-educated to Russian context and young people. It has been revealed that inadequate social arrangements which exist both in the regions and in St. Petersburg do not allow or create constraints to young people to achieve valuable states of health and education. According to the data, young people do not feel able to achieve ‘being treated to the highest attainable grade of physical and mental health’ in state polyclinics and hospitals in the places of residence explored. Thus, access to high-quality health care depends on the income and resources of family and relatives as well as on their own agency, and this leads to inequalities because families have different financial, time and material opportunities. In this case, young people from poor families cannot have their diseases fully treated. This state of affairs is also found in poor families from small towns. Those young people whose family and parents have enough financial, material and time resources have a larger capability set and are ‘able to have different healthcare options’, which allows them to use health care services in other cities. As a result, in small towns young people’s health becomes the full responsibility of their parents and themselves. It is shown that health should not be left to people’s responsibility without any opportunities to take care of it. Moreover, the analysis shows that social structure, for example the health care system and military duty in Russia, influence a lot young men’s substantive freedom of ‘being able to be healthy’. Another result is connected with young people’s adaptation to unequal conditions and disparities, especially in education. Although entrance to higher education is still possible on the basis of academic achievement, i.e. good knowledge of subjects, there is substantial evidence for entrance through illegal ways. The findings show that openness of bribes and fees, need of financial and material resources in order to enter higher education is impressed in the consciousness of young people. Young people have only limited freedom to choose education and educational institutions they really value. In other words, young people adapt to the circumstances, or inequalities, and adjust their lives to these conditions. Russian young people distinguish inequalities that exist in the society, reflect on unequal access and opportunities, but they feel themselves passive and unheard members of the society. Such adaptation and passivity lead to the reflection on democratic processes that are happening in Russian society. The present work can serve as an input for the reflection on how to adopt opportunities and freedom aspects in Russian state policies and go beyond economic determinism. The findings have shown that the young people of this study are not always able to lead the lives they value and to make the most valuable choices due to constraints in instrumental freedoms and the influence of conversion factors. This would suggest that Russian state policies should be oriented to the removal of unfreedoms and various barriers, and should instead have as goals of development – people, especially young people. It also follows from the findings that policies should be oriented towards securing equal access to valued functionings in core life domains (education and health) for all young people regardless of their place of residence and the economic family background.
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Kuzmina K. Capabilities and the insecurity of young Russians: Narrowing the capability gap and reducing inequalities : a qualitative study on 15-18 year old young people from Saint Petersburg, the Leningrad and the Novgorod regions. Bielefeld: Universität Bielefeld; 2012.
Kuzmina, K. (2012). Capabilities and the insecurity of young Russians: Narrowing the capability gap and reducing inequalities : a qualitative study on 15-18 year old young people from Saint Petersburg, the Leningrad and the Novgorod regions. Bielefeld: Universität Bielefeld.
Kuzmina, K. (2012). Capabilities and the insecurity of young Russians: Narrowing the capability gap and reducing inequalities : a qualitative study on 15-18 year old young people from Saint Petersburg, the Leningrad and the Novgorod regions. Bielefeld: Universität Bielefeld.
Kuzmina, K., 2012. Capabilities and the insecurity of young Russians: Narrowing the capability gap and reducing inequalities : a qualitative study on 15-18 year old young people from Saint Petersburg, the Leningrad and the Novgorod regions, Bielefeld: Universität Bielefeld.
K. Kuzmina, Capabilities and the insecurity of young Russians: Narrowing the capability gap and reducing inequalities : a qualitative study on 15-18 year old young people from Saint Petersburg, the Leningrad and the Novgorod regions, Bielefeld: Universität Bielefeld, 2012.
Kuzmina, K.: Capabilities and the insecurity of young Russians: Narrowing the capability gap and reducing inequalities : a qualitative study on 15-18 year old young people from Saint Petersburg, the Leningrad and the Novgorod regions. Universität Bielefeld, Bielefeld (2012).
Kuzmina, Ksenia. Capabilities and the insecurity of young Russians: Narrowing the capability gap and reducing inequalities : a qualitative study on 15-18 year old young people from Saint Petersburg, the Leningrad and the Novgorod regions. Bielefeld: Universität Bielefeld, 2012.
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