INCOME INEQUALITY EVALUATION IN THE BALTIC COUNTRIES: PUBLIC OPINION, PREFERENCES AND VALUES
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Upon regaining their independence, the Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) chose the neoliberal welfare development path, which served as an impetus for the increase in income inequality and poverty in the Baltic countries. The welfare policy is generally based on public opinion and support, hence analyses of the public opinion on income inequality that results from the neoliberal welfare policy and societal values related with redistribution of income can serve as one of the factors explaning why the neoliberal welfare policy has been viable in the region. Commonly the relation between the welfare regime and population attitudes and values is defined as a two-way process. Theories of culture proposed by Inglehart, Hofstede G., Hofstede G.J. and Minkov provide insights into how the cultures of the Baltic countries have been shaping preferences for equality. The main goal of this paper is to analyze the public opinion, views on income inequality and values of the people in the Baltic countries in relation to redistribution of income. To achieve the main goal, the current study uses secondary Eurostat data of 2006ñ2016, primary Eurobarometer data of 2006ñ2017 as well as data from the representative survey (face-to-face interviews) in the Baltic countries of 2016 realized by the company “Spinter research”. The targeted group in the Baltic countries was the population of age 18 and over drawn through probability sampling (the study included 1000 people from Estonia, 1063 from Latvia and 1011 from Lithuania). The study also uses the European Value Study 2008 data. Evaluation of differences in opinions and values was carried out by means of relevant statistical analyses which suggest that the values of equality/solidarity and individual responsibility were in line with the main principles of the neoliberal welfare policy because equality and solidarity are not important values in a society characterized by a preference for freedom and invidual efforts. However, the evaluation of income inequality resulting from the neoliberal welfare policy revealed a dissatisfaction of inhabitants in the region and their preference for a more equal or an absolutely equal society.
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