Near poverty in emerging economies in the pre-COVID-19 era: Case studies of Moscow and Shanghai


Research output: ThesisDoctoral Theses


This thesis investigates near poverty and the near poor population in two cities of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China. The research attempts to answer the questions: ‘What is the status of the near poor population in Moscow and Shanghai?’; ‘What risks are associated with the near poor population in increasingly affluent societies, particularly in Moscow and Shanghai?’; ‘What are the policy implications on the antipoverty strategy for the rest of the world?’. The study aims to conceptualise ‘near poverty’ by examining living conditions and policy obstacles of the ‘near poor’ people in the two emerging economies. In order to form a concept of the ‘near poor,’ the research starts with some theoretical foundation and empirical analysis (through fieldwork). The analysis of interviews outlines the struggles of this group in Moscow and Shanghai and its policy implications.
The thesis begins with a background of near poverty, highlighting the current limited research and the existing literature gap focusing on ‘near poverty’ in Eurasia. I emphasise the need to critically understand the ‘near poverty’ phenomenon and to evaluate the unequal level of social security protection where the ‘near poor’ are often neglected. Drawing on a qualitative research approach, I examine risks the near poor are facing, and how the level of income and other factors (such as psychological) respond to local social policies, aiming to reduce the economic burdens of marginalised people. The research also provides an in-depth discussion of why the near poor population continues to grow by explaining economic, political, and other aspects. Furthermore, the study attempts to have an enhanced understanding of the struggles and challenges of the near poor in two cities by detailing their stories.
The findings show that the status of the ‘near poor’ in Moscow and Shanghai are close to households defined as poor. People who are near the poverty line particularly struggle with the increasing cost of living. Another factor is that both Moscow and Shanghai are overwhelmed with migrants. Migrants face stigma, have limited access to healthcare (particularly in Shanghai), and are often considered as an underclass (Moscow, Shanghai). Their living conditions keep becoming more challenging than the local based population (particularly those born in the city, which is especially crucial in Shanghai with its ‘hukou’ system).
Interviews with the near poor suggest areas in the policy fields where social assistance can be improved, including the transformation and simplification of bureaucratic procedures. For example, Moscow should review the basket of consumer goods they consider when determining what aid is needed and thus benefit vulnerable groups in the city by improving its targeting of aid. This is something Moscow could learn from the Chinese experience. Both cities need to expand social policies, which can cover the broader range of the unsecured group and prevent them from risks of falling into poverty, and eventually benefit the entire population as well as governments. The study shows that households in ‘near poverty’ are still far from the lower middle class. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The Education University of Hong Kong
  • VYAS, Lina, Supervisor
  • WU, Alfred Muluan, Supervisor
  • LUI, Tai Lok 呂大樂, Supervisor
  • CHOU, Kee Lee 周基利, Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Near poverty
  • Poverty
  • Social policy
  • Moscow
  • Shanghai
  • Thesis (Ph.D.)--The Education University of Hong Kong, 2022


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