Capitalism is killing Russian men

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sun Aug 1 18:19:34 MDT 1999

NY Times, August 1, 1999

Road to Capitalism Taking Toll on Men in the Former Soviet Bloc


UNITED NATIONS -- Across many of the post-Communist countries of the former
Soviet Union and in parts of Eastern Europe, the ratio of men to women is
falling, the United Nations says in a new report, because men in those
countries are leading shorter and less healthy lives.

These countries are paying "a high social and human cost for their
transition to a market economy," the U.N. Development Program says in its
report on the former Communist countries of the Soviet Union and the old
Soviet bloc.

The most striking feature has been "the loss of lives among young and
middle-aged men, which is reflected in an abnormally low ratio of men to
women across the region."

The causes, the report says, "include rising suicide rates, declining life
expectancy, poor health care and an increase in self-destructive behavior
-- including drug and alcohol abuse and crime."

Taking as a standard of comparison the ratio of 96 men to every 100 women
found in Britain and Japan, the report calculates that there are 9.6
million "missing men" in the countries of the region.

The explanation lies partly in a recent decline in men's life expectancy in
many of the countries. The life expectancy of Russian men has fallen by
four years since 1980, to 58 years, 10 less than in China. Life expectancy
has also declined in Ukraine, Belarus and Armenia as well as in Latvia,
Lithuania, Romania and Bulgaria.

In addition, the report points to a decline in overall birth rates and high
mortality rates in almost all the countries surveyed, which it attributes
to reduced living standards, increased insecurity and unemployment, and the
deterioration in social services, including health services, since the end
of communism.

These factors have also resulted in a sharp increase in the number of
suicides. Since 1989, the suicide rate in Russia has risen 60 percent, in
Latvia 95 percent, and in Lithuania 80 percent.

"The transition to a market economy has thus been accompanied by a
demographic collapse and a rise in self-destructive behavior, especially
among men," the report concludes.

As further evidence of the high cost of making the transition to a market
economy, the report says the number of people in the region living on an
income as little as $4 a day rose to 32 percent of the population in 1994,
from 4 percent in 1988.

Drug crimes in Russia climbed fivefold between 1991 and 1996, and diseases
that could be contained by immunization are reappearing on a significant

The report stresses rising levels of corruption and the growing importance
of the black market for the region's unemployed. It estimates that the
black market accounts for 25 percent of total Russian economic output and
as much as 40 percent in Yugoslavia, Armenia and Macedonia.  Copyright 1999
The New York Times Company

Louis Proyect

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