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Talks of retirement age raise again spark public debate in Russia

February 09, 2015, 17:52 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© Artyom Geodakyan/TASS

MOSCOW, February 9. /TASS/. Rumors of an imminent retirement age rise in Russia have sparked public controversy again, with opinions ranging from wholesale approval to outright condemnation.

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov on Friday came out with an idea of gradually raising the retirement age for men and women to 63 years.

"We suggest a stop to paying the pension’s base component to employees past the retirement age. Instead, we should be raising the pension age slowly but surely. The retirement age for men and women should be the same - 63 years," Siluanov said. "There are ‘demographic depression’- related problems in store for us. The available skilled labor resources are shrinking, so the economic activity of the actually ‘last working generation’ should be prolonged," he said.

Economic Development Minister Alexey Ulyukayev, too, believes that the Russian authorities must consider the possibility of raising the retirement age.

In Russia, men are allowed to retire on pension at the age of 60, and women at the age of 55. It has been this way in the former Soviet Union and also in Russia ever since its breakup. Each time the government mentions the retirement age issue once again, this very sensitive theme instantly makes front page headlines.

Back in 2011, when he held the prime minister’s seat, Vladimir Putin said: "It is my deepest conviction that there is no need for raising the retirement age. In five, ten, fifteen years’ time we will have to look at the realities of life again." And in April 2014 Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said: "The discussion is still going on over whether the retirement age should be raised. I believe this is not the path we should take."

Nevertheless, the problem is back to the topical agenda again.

"Russia should raise the retirement age by all means. It should have done that long ago," the chief adviser to head of the centre of analysis under the Russian government, economics department dean at the Higher School of Economics, Leonid Grigoriev, has said. "That pensions begin to be paid to women as of 55 and to men as of 60 is the government’s gift to quite able-bodied people. True, the retirement age must not be raised overnight - that would spark mass protests. But it does make sense to raise the retirement age solely but surely, by six months for men and by ten months for women every year. Then, at the end of a 6-8-year-long period we shall gradually approach a retirement age of 63 for both men and women."

"Increasing the retirement age in Russia would be utterly groundless, because the country has a very low life expectancy in contrast to the advanced Western countries, while the health parameters of Russian citizens are far worse," the director of the Demographics Institute at the Higher School of Economics, Anatoly Vishnevsky, has told TASS. "Possibly, from the standpoint of the Ministry of Finance, a decision to raise the retirement age is fraught with financial benefits. But in economic terms the measure would be utterly useless, because people after 60 are as a rule inefficient employees. And amid looming unemployment 60-year-olds will certainly top the list of those to be axed. In that case such people will have to be paid unemployment benefits. So economic gains will be equal to nothing."

"It is impossible to judge rationally if the retirement age in Russia should be raised or not. The government and the Central Bank have no economic strategy even for years to come. In a situation where there is no clarity over what life in the country will be like, what we will be able to sell and what to buy and at what price discussing the retirement age makes no sense," the head of the Neocon consultancy, Mikhail Khazin, has told TASS.

The head of the State Duma’s labor, social policies and veterans’ affairs committee, Olga Batalina, gave Siluanov’s proposal the cold shoulder. "I cannot agree with Siluanov’s idea of paying pensions starting from 63 years of age. It might be possible to allow a voluntary postponement of retirement in exchange for a higher pension, though."

First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov has warned the proposed retirement age rise was among reforms that would surely spark popular discontent, alongside changes in the health care and education.

"All these painful decisions might be made only with reliance on support from the people. There is no other way of pushing them through," Shuvalov said.


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