How much does a young miner earn?

Grigori Reznichenko ::: Young people in the USSR. Answers to questions

It would seem that this question could be an­swered by stating the wage per week, month or year and comparing it with the cost of basic consumer items. But that would be an oversimplification and give a distorted picture.

No one in the world spends all they earn on goods. They pay taxes and rent, they pay for edu­cation, medical treatment, a holiday and so on.

Nor does a young Soviet miner spend all he earns on goods. So it wouldn't make sense just to draw up a list of things he could buy with the money he earns.

There are other factors that need to be taken into account before deciding whether a person earns good money or not. Such factors include working conditions, the length of the working week, the length of paid holidays, pension age, job security, etc. All that, in the final analysis, determines what part of his earnings the miner-or for that matter any other worker-can spend. If his working condi­tions present a hazard to his life and health, so that he probably won't last until retirement, then he has to think about his family's future. If there is no job security and he could one day be unemployed, then he has to put some money aside.

Bearing all that in mind, we can now get down to concrete figures.

The average wage of a Soviet miner-whether old or young-ranges between 300 and 400 roubles a month, which is considerably more than the average earnings of industrial and office workers. Work in this country is paid for according to its quantity and quality. And by quality, apart from other things, we mean the importance of the profession concerned for society and how hard are the working conditions. It is because of these two factors that underground workers are paid more than others. They also have a number of additional benefits. The average working week in industry is 40.7 hours. The miners work only 36 hours. They also get a long­er paid holiday, and they are the first to get flats and the first to be provided with holiday facilities at resorts, either free or for a fraction of the cost.

So taking the average monthly wage of the miner (350 roubles), let us see what part of it the miner can spend on goods. The top income tax level is 13 per cent of one's wage or salary. For a three-room flat with central heating, hot water, gas, telephone and other amenities, he pays something like 15-20 roubles. All education, professional training and medical aid are free. He makes no contributions towards his pension. For a 12-day holiday with full room and board at a rest home, he pays no more than 7.50 roubles, the rest of the bill being footed by the trade union. His trade union dues come to one per cent of his wage. There is no danger of being jobless even if the mine should close down. The management cannot lay off a miner without having found him another job. So the miner has no need to save for a rainy day.

In other words, no more than 70 roubles a month (20 per cent of his wage) are needed for such ex­penses, and the miner can spend the remaining 280 roubles (80 per cent of his wage) on purchases.

That ratio shows how wrong it would be to judge the standard of living only on the basis of wages and prices of goods and services. Now if you take an American miner, he has to spend up to 60 per cent of his wage on taxes, rent, contributions to social security funds, medical insurance and so on. That leaves him with only 40 per cent of his wage which he can spend on goods. In order that his 40 per cent should equal the 280 roubles (or 360 dol­lars) that remains in the Soviet miner's pocket, the American would have to earn 900 dollars a month.

But to return to the Soviet miner. What can he buy with the money he earns? Let us look at the prices of some consumer goods. A kilogram (2.2 pounds) of meat costs up to 2 roubles, butter-3.6 roubles and sugar 0.9 roubles. A yearly subscription to a newspaper costs only 6 roubles, and a movie ticket-0.5 roubles.

He won't be able to buy a car or furniture for his home or a fur coat for his wife in one go. Money for such things has to be saved and for quite a bit of time. But those are not things one buys every day.