According to Economy Ministry data released Friday, the average monthly wage slightly surpassed 8,655 rubles ($303) in June. This increase means wages have grown one and half times over the past 18 months. The $300-level is a new benchmark for wage growth. The average monthly income in December 2003 was $200, or the same as it was in 1999 and before the August 1998 financial crisis, which saw this figure drop to $70. Inflation whittled away part of the increase with growth in real incomes at 8% vs. 14%. The income gap between the top 10% and bottom 10% of the population remains at 26 times, and a quarter of the population continues to live below the poverty line. In relation to other CIS countries, Russia compares favorably. Ukraine's average monthly salary stands at $164.75 and Belarus' at $221.5. The comparison to Eastern European countries is less impressive - Lithuania's average salary at $445.5, the Czech Republic at $710.9, Estonia at $575.4, Poland at $729.7, and Hungary at $771.4.