Academic journal article Economics & Sociology

Where Do Time and All of the Money Go? Consumer Strategies of Urban Youth in Modern Russia

Academic journal article Economics & Sociology

Where Do Time and All of the Money Go? Consumer Strategies of Urban Youth in Modern Russia

Article excerpt

Introduction. Consumer strategies of urban youth with different work experience

The main aim of the article is to show that young people's employment experience provides insight into their consumer policies, especially in the situation of an ongoing crisis. The analysis of the existing debate shows that researchers are primarily interested in youth consumption in terms of style and taste preferences in the context of lifestyle and latest consumer trends. At the same time, youth consumption issues related to the nature of young people's employment and rootedness in regional labour markets, especially in a challenging economic environment, remain in the sidelines. Large-scale surveys present a palette of consumer preferences that are rarely linked to job tenure, and relate mainly to the changes in young people's attitude towards consumable goods (Synovate Comcon, 2015).

Despite the changes in economic conditions, the everyday life of today's youth is still rich in various consumer offers, and consumption remains as both a form and a background for the development of youth styles. Being a part of a consumer group is one of the foundations upon which young people construct their identities. This factor becomes all the more important in a fast-changing economic environment with new options emerging more and more frequently. The new architectures of consumer offers are encouraging young people, the part of the population that is the most susceptible to market novelties, to integrate themselves into the situation, constantly producing their identities, (in)directly joining the race for the fashionable, prestigious and relevant. It is obvious, however, that the participants' progress and success rate differ greatly. Some find that access to the style supermarket is denied for them, and consumer freedom is just an illusion linked with complex feelings of exclusion and deprivation. This is not a feature peculiar to Russia, but an overall trend of growing structural and systemic inequality that accompanies the large-scale development of the global market. Until today, distinctive features of Russian consumption were mainly defined by the concept of 'consumer revolution' applicable to the countries that have moved 'from necessary consumption to overconsumption' (Gurova, 2009, p. 276). Nevertheless, the situation is changing nowadays. We observe a partial return to shortage practices, which is due to not only the reduction and phasing of imported goods on offer as a consequence of the sanctions, but also an obvious decline in the standard of living for a significant part of the population that is hit by the economic crisis the hardest - the poor, the retired, the unemployed. Changes in consumption patterns of other, more secure population groups might not be as noticeable, and working youth is an example of that. However, this does not mean that young people do not feel the pressure of the crisis. A number of social scientists consider generational differences to be a new form of inequality (Pilkington, 2006, p. 383), so it was important for us to test the differences between young consumers with different labour and generational experiences employed in different fields: the public sector, the private sector, and the self-employed (freelancers). We believe that the field of employment can affect both the availability of material and symbolic resources and the habitus formed during young people's professional development, when they are learning the rules and regulations of a particular employment sector.

1.Youth consumption as the focus of current academic debate

The contemporary academic debate on youth consumption is developing in several, rarely intersecting, dimensions. First of all, subculturally, consumer strategies and patterns are viewed as a new form of creating social differences. This dimension stems from young people's resistance against the class position inherited from their parents (Abraham, 2013). Subcultural research develops the idea of individual and group style values. …

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