This text originally appeared on Strana.ua
Presidential elections were held in Belarus amid street fighting. Part of the society does not agree with the victory of Alexander Lukashenko, who has been ruling the country for 26 years.
Such irremovability of power is one of the arguments of Lukashenko’s opponents. In addition, they have a whole set of other claims, including some of a purely material nature: low standards of living, low salaries, high prices, and so on.
“Strana” has studied and compared these parameters in Belarus and Ukraine.
Pensions and salaries. Statistics data
The average pension in Ukraine is 3400 hryvnia ($123) – this figure was announced by the Minister of Social Policy Marina Lazebnaya in mid-June.
In July, Belarus increased the average pension to 470 Belarusian rubles – that is 5,308 UAH or $192. That is, the average pension in Belarus is 36% higher than the Ukrainian one.
The average salary in Ukraine in June was 11,579 hryvnia ($420), according to the State Statistics Service. For the northern neighbors this indicator for the same month is 1248.9 Belarusian rubles or 14,087 UAH ($511).
That is, the average salary of Belarusians is 17.8% higher than that of Ukrainians.
What are the salaries in the labour market
But these are the government statistics. Let’s compare how much the wages are in the labour market.
An ordinary cashier in a Minsk bank is offered a salary in the region of 600-700 local rubles (around $300-$350). This is about 7-8 thousand hryvnia. In Kiev, for the same job, job sites offer more – 11-12 thousand ($400).
If we take more specialized professions, then, for example, an excavator driver in Kiev can count on 20 thousand hryvnia ($660), in Minsk – about 17 thousand.
But drivers in taxi services like Uber are offered approximately the same salaries in the range of 20,000 hryvnia – both in Kiev and in Minsk. But in general, salaries in the Ukrainian capital are higher.
That is, in the commercial sector, if we compare the capitals, in Ukraine you can earn 20-30% more percent (the question is how much of this will have to be paid for travel and housing, but more on that below).
It should also be borne in mind that the population in Minsk is less than in Kiev. Accordingly, effective demand is lower and wages in the private sector are lower.
But in the budget is clearly higher. In Kiev, librarians are looking for a salary in the region of 4000 hryvnia. In Minsk – above 6,000.
Teachers of mathematics in a public school in Minsk without work experience are taken on a salary of 13,500 hryvnias (1,200 Belarusian rubles). In Ukraine, the salaries in public schools are from 5 to 8 thousand hryvnia, and this includes allowances.
It’s another matter – what are the costs of Belarusians and Ukrainians and how much of these salaries citizens can put aside.
Housing and communal prices
In Kiev, renting a one-room apartment with a fresh renovation, 10-15 minutes from the metro in a residential area, will cost about 8-9 thousand hryvnia.
In similar districts of Minsk, a one-room apartment, from which about seven minutes walk to the metro, will cost 500 rubles – about five and a half thousand hryvnia.
That is, renting a house in the Belarusian capital is about 30% cheaper. A communal apartment costs even less.
For a kopeck piece in Minsk with three registered tenants, you need to pay about 110 Belarusian rubles during the heating season – that’s 1 232 hryvnia.
In Kiev, the average payment for a family of three living in a two-room apartment with an area of 50 square meters is UAH 2,500 per month (also during the heating season).
A kilogram of buckwheat in the Ukrainian “Auchan” costs about 33 hryvnia and more – depending on the brand. In the Belarusian online food delivery service “Hit”, the average price for buckwheat is 2.17 rubles, which equals 24 hryvnia. True, for 900 grams (this is the maximum packing).
A dozen eggs of the first category cost in Minsk a maximum of two rubles – that’s 22.5 hryvnia ($0.90). In Kiev it is cheaper – 18-20 UAH.
A liter of milk 3.2% fat costs 14-15 UAH in Minsk. In Kiev – more than 30 UAH.
Half a kilo of Nordic oat flakes cost about 45 UAH in Ukraine, 36 UAH (3.19 rubles) in Belarus.
Pork belly for 1 kg in Minsk will cost 120-140 UAH, in Kiev – 150-160.
That is, food prices are generally lower than in Ukraine, with a number of exceptions.
Travel and gasoline
Gasoline prices in Belarus are set by directives by the Belneftekhim concern and are valid at all gas stations, including private ones. So, today the 95th gasoline costs 1.78 rubles ($0.75) per liter, which is equal to 20 hryvnias.
In Ukraine, 95th gasoline today costs an average of 25 hryvnia per liter at branded filling stations with a wide network of filling stations.
If you travel by public transport, then a trip in the Minsk metro will cost 70 kopecks (about 8 UAH or $0.29), and by ground transport – 65 kopecks. Prices are comparable to Kiev.
However, the world rating agencies have their own calculations. In January 2020, Minsk, according to Numbeo, ranked 345th, and Kiev – 347th in the ranking of the most expensive cities in the world.
Living in the capital of Belarus is clearly cheaper than in Kiev. Salaries in the public sector are significantly higher here, and in the commercial sector – 20-30 percent lower.
Judging by the official statistics of average salaries, Belarus spends much more money on public sector employees than Ukraine. Which translates into a higher average salary in the country.
This also means that social services – education, healthcare, infrastructure – are better developed in Belarus.
It is also important that pensions in the country are significantly higher than Ukrainian ones – accordingly, working Belarusians spend less on supporting elderly parents. This also compensates for the lag in wages in the private sector.
Thus, one cannot say that “democracy” in Ukraine looks somehow more attractive than the “dictatorship” in Belarus based on the example of prices and wages. Despite the fact that Ukraine is theoretically richer than its northern neighbor, with its vast arable land, natural resources and access to the sea.