I just came across an article that reports the results of a survey of Russian soldiers, primarily junior officers. Unfortunately, the text is only available to subscribers. Here’s the citation for those with access to the right databases: СУРКОВА И.Ю. Удовлетворенность воинской службой в российской армии: факторы и прогнозы, Социологические исследования, 2012, #3.
First, some demographic background: The survey was conducted in all four military districts over the course of four years — from 2007 to 2010. It is not clear from the description if this was a panel survey, with the same respondents questioned every year. The median age of the 600+ officers surveyed is 29. The respondents averaged ten years of military service, mostly in the ground forces, though 28 percent served in the air force. 91.2 percent of the respondents are male, which matches the overall composition of the Russian military pretty closely.
Pay is the first topic addressed by the survey. According to the data, the average salary of officers in 2007 was 4500 rubles per month lower than the national average (8049 vs 12,603). Though average pay for those surveyed had increased by 2010 to 10,705, the national average had increased faster, to 18,453. So by 2010, officers were receiving 7,747 rubles per month less than the national average. (This was all before the significant increase in pay took effect last January, but shows why such an increase was so necessary.) The material situation of respondents was made worse by the difficulty of finding work for officers’ spouses in military towns and the absence of nearby relatives, who often provide additional material support for young Russian families. Some respondents noted that they had to give blood for money in order to make ends meet.
At the same time, respondents who come from poor villages consider themselves well off relative to both their parents and their peers, especially if they are serving in smaller towns or other areas where differences between military and civilian pay are less pronounced.
The monetization of benefits that took place in 2004 also had a negative effect on the financial status of those surveyed, since people working in the military were affected by the elimination of the right to free transport. 58 percent of those surveyed believed that benefits were a better system than equivalent financial compensation. They believed that benefits were an indicator of status — that as long as officers received benefits they were a part of the country’s elite. Even if benefits were to be replaced by an equivalent increase in pay, this attitude means that job satisfaction was likely to decline.
The concluding part of the study presents a logit regression that shows that respondents were less likely to be satisfied with their jobs if they cared about the financing of their unit, were upset about violations of rules by senior officers, or who experienced job stress. No surprises here, at first glance. But it’s interesting to look at the factors that did not affect job satisfaction for these officers — whether the respondents had adequate housing, length of service, and total monthly income all didn’t matter. The conclusion drawn by the author is that in order to increase job satisfaction, the military needs to focus on financing of units and ensuring proper and respectful relations between commanders and subordinates. I guess that means another effort to fight corruption at the unit level.
Dmitry Gorenburg is a Senior Analyst at CNA blogging for PONARS Eurasia on military and security affairs in Russia and Eurasia. This comment is also available on Russian Military Reform.