Ukraine - Poverty and wealth

For the majority of people, the standard of living has deteriorated since independence. According to the World Bank (2000-01), as much as 31.7 percent of the population was below the poverty level in 1995. However, by 1999, the CIA estimated that 50 percent of the population lived below the poverty level, which is based on an income of $50 per month. The average wage is 60 to 80 dollars per month, and for most, payment is delayed for several months. Wage arrears are an all too common feature of daily life. Because companies have seen their output in 1999 decrease to less than 40 percent of the 1991 level, they often have a difficult time paying their employees on time. Ukraine's GDP per capita has declined from $1,979 in 1990 to $837 in 1998. It is similar to the former Soviet States of central Asia and Caucasus and to many African and Middle Eastern countries.

For the majority of the population, the transition from the Soviet period has meant a catastrophic decline in living standards. According to the official government statistics, the cumulative decline measured in national income

Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Ukraine
Lowest 10% 3.9
Lowest 20% 8.6
Second 20% 12.0
Third 20% 16.2
Fourth 20% 22.0
Highest 20% 41.2
Highest 10% 26.4
Survey year: 1996
Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

was about 60 percent between 1991 and 1999. Hence, someone earning the equivalent of $1,800 in 1990 only earned a salary comparable to $600 in 1999. In the same period, the average standards of living declined by about 80 percent. Pensioners and retirees were the most affected by these declines.

At the same time, several indicators show that the health status of the Ukrainian population has deteriorated in the years after the independence. Life expectancy at birth has decreased from 70 years to 67.7 years, with a greater fall in males (who reached 62 years) than in females (73 years). Life expectancy is 10 years shorter than the population of the EU. In addition, infant mortality has increased since 1989 and in 1998 was 17 per 1,000 live births. The lack of clean water is a big problem in Ukraine, resulting in disease and early deaths. Contagious diseases in Ukraine are cholera, dysentery, typhoid, hepatitis, and AIDS. Radiation from the now-closed Chernobyl nuclear power plant is also posing serious difficulties to the Ukrainian population.

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