- THE JAPANESE ASSOCIATION FOR RUSSIAN AND EAST EUROPEAN STUDIES
- ロシア・東欧学会年報 (ISSN:21854645)
- vol.2000, no.29, pp.95-104, 2000
It is widely noted that former socialist countries in Eastern Europe have suffered from the deterioration in social well-being during the period of transition to a market economy. How seriously has the living standard of people actually been threatened? To what extent has income inequality widened? In addition, how have people coped with economic hardships during the transition? This paper attempts to address these questions using quantitative measures where possible, with the Republic of Macedonia as a case of study. The focus is placed on the countermeasures taken by the people against economic hardships within the framework of social safety net.<BR>It is found that income inequality has widened across regions, accompanied by a concentration of economic activities in Skopje, the capital of the Republic. Also, economic inequality in the society has widened across generations; the young generation has been affected most seriously. In these contexts, people try to alleviate the deteriorating living standard by gaining income from multiple sources (including transfers from various social welfare programs, a withdrawal of savings and sales of properties) and by reducing daily expenditures such as for food, and clothes and shoes.<BR>In Macedonia, a formal safety net such as social welfare programs has undoubtedly helped sustain the level of living standard to a certain extent during the transition. However, at the same time the family system that is regarded as an informal safety net has played an important role in alleviating the declining living standard as well as in the widening of economic inequality both across regions and across generations during the transition.<BR>The family system with strong kinship ties is the distinct characteristic observed in Balkan societies. Thus, the analytical framework based on social safety net introduced in this paper is expected to provide a useful approach in analyzing social welfare problems in other Balkan countries during the period of transition to a market economy.