Welfare taking Shape

Welfare, Gender and Agency in Russia and Eastern Europe, eighth annual Aleksanteri Conference arranged 10-12.12

students

-The welfare state is a key issue of transitional economies, Markku Kivinen, Director of the Aleksanteri Institute, stated in the opening of the annual conference. Russia is facing many challenges; such as, the diversification of the economy, the democratization process and the security challenge. Without a wide range of interest organizations welfare cannot be developed.

Professor Aino Saarinen spoke on the Welfare, Gender and Agency project in Russia. – Local support such as crisis centres for women, social organisations and self-help organisations are examples on how we work.

Professor Linda J. Cook from Brown University, USA, talked about “Negotiating Welfare in Russia and Eastern Europe, Statist Interests, and the Politics of Reform”.

-What happens when societal forces are very feeble? When society is weak, specialists play an important role. In the 1990s, Russian and East European governments, responding to the pressures of recession and market transition, reformed the statist welfare systems inherited from the Communist period. In the democratizing of East European states, liberalizing changes were negotiated with societal agents, leading to moderation, compensation, and more limited, but sustained welfare provision. In Russia, society had a very limited voice in reform, Cook explained. Before 1991, everybody received education, health care and pensions. After that we have experienced a privatisation of these sectors.

-In, e.g., Hungary and Poland there was a higher level of welfare effort. Thus representative institutions play an important role in society’s ability to negotiate on welfare issues, Cook continued.

The aim of the eighth Aleksanteri Conference is to deepen the understanding and to bring together researchers of various disciplines to examine the interrelationships of welfare, gender and agency in Russia and Eastern Europe during the transitional period.

The approach is more multidimensional than usual – in addition to economic and social problems the agenda also includes bodily and sexual issues. Over 150 participants from 15 countries take part in the conference. The event is arranged in Helsinki and continues until the 12th of December.

Text: Karin Hannukainen
Photo: Veikko Somerpuro
2.12.2008
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