Unemployment has become a topic of discussion and even the Soviet party newspaper Pravda admits that perestroika has caused people to lose their employment. On 31 October 1989 Pravda stated that three million people have lost their job as a result of the reform programme and that this figure could rise to 16 million by the year 2000. In particular, 500,000 men are due to be demobilized from the Soviet armed forces during 1990 and 1991, following Gorbachev’s speech to the United Nations in December 1988, adding to the pool of unemployed. In Central Asia youth unemployment has increased sharply rising to 25 per cent in certain districts and this has contributed to ethnic violence among the different nationalities.
As well as unemployment the Soviet Union now concedes that a proportion of its population lives in conditions of poverty. The minimum level for material security is reckoned to be 75 roubles per month but 43 million people or 15 percent of the Soviet population are reckoned to fall below this level. There is no state plan for poverty and no government agency with the task of providing for those who are below this level as formerly poverty was not supposed to exist. Soviet officials resort to a euphemism and designate such people as ‘underprovisioned’ but the youth communist party newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda has stated that ‘poverty is a reality, our national tragedy’. It is possible to see people begging on the streets or more commonly in the underpasses of major Soviet cities.
—Geographical, January 1990.