Soviet Union Table of Contents
Since the mid-1940s, the government has provided financial subsidies to mothers with "many children," meaning two or more. This program had three facets: mothers received a lump-sum grant upon the birth of the third and each subsequent child; they received a monthly subsidy upon the birth of the fourth and each subsequent child; and, beginning with the Eleventh Five-Year-Plan (1981-85), one-time maternity grants (50 rubles for the first child and 100 for the second) were given to working women or female students on a leave-of-absence basis. In 1986 the government paid monthly subsidies to almost 2 million mothers having four or more children.
In addition to pensions and financial subsidies, veterans, invalids, and multichildren families received a number of nonmonetary benefits, such as top consideration for housing, telephones, and priority services in shops and restaurants. In 1985 and again in 1987, the Central Committee of the CPSU, the Council of Ministers, and the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions issued resolutions to improve living conditions of the "underprovisioned," including pensioners, invalids, old people living alone, and single-parent families with three or more children under the age of eighteen and with an average monthly per capita income of 50 rubles (75 rubles in certain regions, for example, the Soviet Far East). This program provided free school, sports, and youth organization uniforms and free breakfasts for children up to the age of sixteen. The resolutions also called for child-support payments by the absent parent of at least 20 rubles per month per child up to the age of eighteen, as well as a government subsidy of 12 rubles per month for each child up to the age of eight. Underprovisioned families were provided free sanatorium and rest-home stays; the children were sent to summer youth camps, as well, at government expense.
Although no official calls for comprehensive restructuring of welfare programs were made, by 1987 and 1988 the policy of glasnost' embraced the topic of poverty in the Soviet Union. Numerous articles appeared in the press reflecting a growing concern--on the part of both Soviet officials and the general public--about the number of poor in the Soviet Union, estimated in 1988 to include 20 percent of the population.
The leadership under Gorbachev fully acknowledged the pressing need for improving the quality and availability of education, health care, and welfare services nationwide and seemed genuinely committed to achieving these objectives by the year 2000. But the obstacles to reforms in these spheres were numerous and formidable. The country had to significantly raise funding for these programs, and to do so would require a shift in spending priorities. Moreover, excessive centralization and overbureaucratization in the administration of social services had to be overcome. And the incompatibility of maintaining ideological purity in all aspects of education, on the one hand, and developing in youth the ability to think critically, comparatively, and creatively, on the other hand, had to be reconciled.
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Inside Soviet Schools by Susan Jacoby, an American educator, offers a comprehensive view of the upbringing of Soviet youth from infancy through secondary school. Kitty D. Weaver's Russia's Future examines the role of the youth organizations (Young Octobrists, Pioneers, and Komsomol) in the education process. The Making of the Soviet Citizen, edited by George Avis, covers school reforms of the 1980s, the dual concept of character formation and formal education, the role of political indoctrination, and vocational training. Soviet Politics and Education by Frank M. Sorrentino and Frances R. Curcio, includes several articles dealing with the role of ideology and political indoctrination in Soviet education. Vadim Medish's The Soviet Union provides an excellent chapter on the education system, from the nursery school level through the university level. Inside Russian Medicine by William A. Knaus, M.D., an American physician who observed Soviet health care first hand, covers polyclinic and hospital care, emergency services, and psychiatric treatment. The Medical and Pharmaceutical Sectors of the Soviet Economy by Christopher Davis discusses the organization and financing of medical care, the medical industry, pharmaceuticals, and foreign trade in medical products. Economic Welfare in the Soviet Union by Alastair McAuley discusses the historical background, organization, eligibility requirements, and payments provided by Soviet welfare programs. Poverty in the Soviet Union by Mervyn Matthews, includes some recent information on old-age pensions and child support payment. Matthews also discusses these topics in his article "Aspects of Poverty in the Soviet Union." (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)
Data as of May 1989
Soviet Union Table of Contents