Global Reach: Russia

Year Work
Total Funds
Invested To Date

EMpower in RUSSIA

Russia is a high-income country with the world’s 11th largest economy. Its natural resources, including crude oil, natural gas, and energy, have spurred its GDP growth over the last two decades, leading to significantly improved living standards for many. Yet, the benefits have not accrued to all, and young people, particularly those in challenging circumstances like the many orphans who transition out of institutionalized care every year face barriers to thriving as adults.

Up-to-date statistics on the young people who are orphans in Russia is extremely difficult to find, but the numbers are estimated to be high. Most of them have living parents who, for various reasons, are unable to take care of them.  Since 2016, the Government of the Russian Federation has implemented a reform process aiming to close large orphanages, re-house youth in smaller apartments or in foster families, integrate all orphans in community schools and institute transitional support for those 18 and over who leave the institutions to embark on independent life. Implementation of the process is now nearly complete, with a variety of transitional arrangements in place at different institutions, and fewer young people still living in institutions. While there are no detailed official statistics on the educational, health and livelihoods outcomes of orphanage graduates in Russia, most are affected by some kind of disability, have lower educational achievement levels and many lack vital life skills. Only 10% are estimated to be able to adapt to independent life after leaving institutional care, and only 2% enter universities (compared with 45% of young people who grow up living with their families). Orphaned youth also face youth unemployment rates that at 20%, are substantially higher than the overall unemployment rate of 5%.

Russia has been heavily affected by COVID, having the fifth highest number of confirmed cases as of November 2020 (over 2 million) and mortality estimates much higher than the official numbers. This is likely to undo the gains against poverty that Russia has experienced since 2015. Disruptions in school attendance are likely to lead to many students who never return, or who at minimum face difficulties regaining lost learning time and skills.

EMpower in Russia

In Russia, EMpower’s programmatic approach focuses on young people transitioning out of institutions or young people for whom sympathy is short in Russian society either because of their identity (LGBTQI youth) or because they are considered responsible for their plight (e.g.- drug and/or alcohol affected youth, youth in trouble with the law). We support organizations based in Moscow and St. Petersburg that have tailor-made activities aiming at youth personal development. Using a holistic approach to build youth self-confidence and character, organizations develop activities to enable youth to grow their competencies in different areas, build connections with their peers and have meaningful relationships with adults. This is done through a variety of programs across board: adolescent reproductive health education, vocational training skills, youth leadership training, well-being education, and life skills training.


Total population 146 million people (2020)

Size of youth population/share of population that is 10-24, projections of youth share over next 10 years :15% of the population is 10-24 (2020)

% urban/rural 74% urban (2018)

Special populations of interest:

64k refugees and asylum seekers (2019)

LGBTQI+ youth in Russia face risks, though Russian laws do not ban LGBTQI+ relationships explicitly, as in some other emerging market countries.  

Economy & Environment

GDP per capita 11,585 USD

GINI index and rank 37.5 (2018)

% living in poverty (by country’s own poverty line): 13% in 2017

61% of population uses safely managed sanitation services, and 76% use safely managed drinking water services. 8% of the adult population was suffering from moderate or severe food insecurity in 2018, which translates to a substantial burden. When households are food insecure, girls are often the last to eat, getting the least.

INFORM Risk Index score (2020): Widely-used tool to assess the risk of humanitarian crisis and disasters, including the Hazard and Exposure subscale, which includes natural disasters like earthquakes, droughts, and floods, and human disasters like conflict. Russia: 4.0 (medium, decreasing risk) overall; Rank 82 ; Hazard and Exposure score: 6.2 (very high)

Key issues that affect youth:

Gender inequality

Rank in Global Gender Gap report 81 out of 153 (21 out of 26 in the region)

59% of Russians own a smart phone and 80% of both male and female adults have access to the internet (2018). Data on access and use among young people is not available.

Education (Quality education, SDG4)

Compared to many other countries where Empower works, many young people in Russia have full access to appropriate and quality education. The country offers 12 years of free primary and secondary education. The net enrollment rate for primary education is 98% for females and 97% for males. These proportions are both lower for secondary (91 and 90% respectively), though still slightly higher than the regional average. Many (62% of 25-34 year olds) graduate with university degrees. Comprehensive sexuality education is integrated into a mandatory subject, but teacher support is poor and the curriculum does not meet international standards.

  • PISA reading score (2018):  (479 vs. OECD average of 487)[2]
  • PISA math score (2018):  (488 vs. OECD average of 489)[3]
  • PISA science score (2018):  (478 vs. OECD average of 489)

However, many young people experience a relatively long transition period from school to work, and may find themselves in insecure jobs with low pay. Underemployment, in which educational skills are underutilized, is common, affecting nearly 22% of young people 15-24 (2020).

Livelihoods (Decent work and economic growth, SDG 8)

The Russian Federation has the 8th largest labour force in the world. Youth unemployment is 15% (2019), slightly higher for young women (16%) than for young men (15%)

Youth labor force participation rate, by sex 39% of males 15-24, 31% of females (2017)

NEET (not employed, in education or training) %, by sex (2019): 5.4% boys 15-19, lower than the OECD average of 6.5; 12.8% males 20-24; [OECD average 13.6%) 18.3% women 20-24 [OECD 16.2%]

Health and well-being

Injection drug use is a significant problem in the country, with around 2.3% of the country estimated to use (3.6% of 20-24 year olds). High levels of alcohol use, particularly among men, are also significant health issues in the country.

 23% of women agree that a man is justified in beating his wife or partner under some circumstances, indicating that the practice is more common even than that.

HIV prevalence, % of new infections among young people (by sex) 15-24. Unlike most European countries, the number of new cases of HIV has been increasing in Russia. HIV transmission in the country is primarily related to injection drug use and unsafe sex work.

Social support: 5% of 15-29 year olds say they have no friends or relatives they can count on in times of trouble.

Other countries in Turkey & Russia:

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