How Ukraine changed since gaining independence?

Author : Anna Peshkova

Source : 112 Ukraine

Statistics on salaries, pensions and prices in independent Ukraine
21:10, 25 August 2020

Ukraine's Independence Day
Open source

Independent Ukraine celebrated its 29th anniversary. Over the years, the country has undergone many tests, ranging from the breakdown of industrial cooperation with enterprises from other countries of the former USSR and ending with financial crises and the loss of part of the territory. The Ukrainian's wallet was filling up and losing weight.

When it was better to live in independent Ukraine - in 1991 or 2020?

Population of the country

The population of Ukraine is shrinking more and more every year due to the aging of the nation (declining birth rate) and migration abroad. The last official population census in 2001 showed that more than 48 million citizens permanently reside in our territory. According to the State Statistics Service, we are now 41 million, and according to the "Estimation of the number" from the ex-Minister Dubilet – there are 37 million. Experts are inclined to believe that this figure is close to the truth, although the methodology for calculating it is far from accurate.

Our largest population was recorded in 1993 - 51.87 million. This is a consequence of the 1991 baby boom. Then 630 thousand children were born - twice as many as last year.

Average life expectancy

The average life expectancy of Ukrainians has been growing since Ukraine's independence and is 72,6 years. A slight decrease was observed only in 2018. This indicator is partially associated with the development of medicine in the world. However, despite this positive trend, our citizens live the least of all Europeans. In Switzerland, by comparison, the average life expectancy is around 84 years.

Average salary

Since independence, salaries have become almost 4 times higher. But this, of course, does not mean that we have begun to live 4 times better. In the ratio of income to the cost of food, a certain increase in the quality of life is noticeable: if a salary in 1996 could buy 74 kg of meat or 120 liters of milk, now it is 92 kg or 460 liters. However, the average Ukrainian has expanded the range of expenses, in particular for equipment, utility bills, and communication services.

By the pre-crisis 2008, pensions rose to $ 148, but then the hryvnia devalued. In 2013, payments were the highest for the entire period of independence - 180 dollars. The new collapse of the national currency actually cut them three times. Since 2016, we have seen a rapid increase in average wages.

Average pension

The picture is almost the same with pensions. However, after the fall in 2013, they are not growing as fast.

If in 1996 one could buy about 10 kg of meat, 60 liters of milk or 80 loaves of bread with an average pension, now it is almost 20 kg of meat, 100 liters of milk or 200 loaves of bread. However, the prices for utilities, medicines, travel have more than tripled.

Another thing is that almost every second pensioner receives the minimum payment, and even its annual indexation does not make the amount sufficient for a decent life.

Big Mac Index

Demonstrating the rise in food prices in Ukraine using the example of one product is not very illustrative. Journalists usually refer to the "borscht index", that is, dish that is popular among  Ukrainians. This approach was borrowed from The Economist magazine, which representatives invented the "Big Mac Index" 34 years ago. This indicator was used to calculate the undervalued currencies of different countries. The authors of the index propose to consider a burger as a cut of the consumer basket and, based on its value, suggest what the exchange rate should be. Of course, this is only a near-economic concept, because there are too few ingredients in a burger for an accurate assessment.

The first McDonald's restaurant in the capital opened on May 24, 1997. Big Mac cost 7 UAH. Until 2004, when The Economist journalists began to monitor the index in our country, the cost of a bun remained practically unchanged. Then a gradual growth began to UAH 19 in 2012, and until 2015 the price was stable, even despite the crisis exchange rate jump in 2014. In 2018, the burger was sold for 47 UAH. Despite the stabilization of the value of the hryvnia, the dish continues to rise in price. In 2020, it costs 57 UAH (2 USD).

The minimum cost of an apartment in Kyiv

After the law on the privatization of the housing stock was adopted in 1992, the first transactions for the purchase and sale of apartments began. Until 2001, prices for one-room apartments in the capital were kept at a fairly low level and steadily increased from 8 to 17 thousand dollars. After the 1998 crisis, prices fell again, and since 2001 Ukraine has seen a boom in real estate: it has grown in value almost 10 times. The sector began to be viewed as attractive for investment. Then, in 2008, the global financial crisis hit and prices plummeted. Real estate agencies began to close. By 2011, the market had calmed down: the cost of housing is undergoing slight fluctuations.

How many Ukrainians earn less than the living wage

The State Statistics Service demonstrates a downward trend in poverty among Ukrainians. True, the data has only been available since 2010. Then 8.6% of Ukrainians earned less than the subsistence minimum, today this figure is 1.1%. But this, of course, does not mean that poverty in the country has been overcomed.

The living wage set by the Cabinet does not correspond to reality. There is a concept of the actual cost of living, which in itself is paradoxical. It is 2-3 times higher than the established one, from which authorities are calculating social benefits. The National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine says that the money earned is not enough to live for 58% of the population.

Crime and punishment

Since 1991, crime level in Ukraine has only grown: instead of 405.5 thousand cases a year, by the end of the nineties there were about 570 thousand crimes. The most criminal years during independence were 1996-1997, and the quietest year was 2008, when there were less than 400 thousand incidents. After a period of calmness, the growth of crime began again.

There are also positive indicators. Last year, the country had the least number of murders in the entire history of independence - 1,428.

On the other hand, according to the latest data, Ukraine is in the top ten countries with the largest number of people in prisons. Even though the number of convicts is decreasing, the indicator is high. In 1991, 104 000 people were convicted, in 2017 – 76 000. The State Statistics Service does not have more relevant data.

Number of scientists

According to UNESCO, over the past five years, share of scientists in the world have grown by 20%. In Ukraine, the sector is shrinking. The statistics website contains data only since 2010: since then, the number of representatives of science has decreased by 2.5 times. But, according to various sources, at the very beginning of independent Ukraine, there were 5.6 times more of them, that is, 450 thousand, or about 1% of the population. This ratio is common in the world.

It may seem a positive trend that the proportion of doctors of sciences in our country has increased (from 3 to 26%). However, this is rather a consequence of the aging of the staff. Most of them are over 70 years old. Fresh "brains" are less and less interested in the sphere because of low salaries.

These graphs show only pointwise the main trends in life in the country over the past 29 years. We track the most favorable period from the beginning of the 2000s to 2008. But, unfortunately, it is not associated with effective management, but with the rise in prices for the products we manufacture.

The years of independence only widened the class gap between rich and poor. If you don't allow yourself too much, living is cheaper today than in 1991. A Ukrainian with an average income can save up for an apartment twice as fast as at the beginning of an independent country. But science is not going through the best times, the birth rate is declining. The economy of Ukraine is growing, the country is developing, but other countries are ahead of it in this growth. Therefore, a well-thought-out strategy is needed so that in the future our citizens will live better.

Related: Ukraine observes minute of silence in tribute to those killed for freedom and independence

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