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Russia Plan to Raise Pension Age Draws Protests

September 4, 2018

In a rare showing of coordinated anger against the government, thousands protested this weekend against proposed Russian pension reforms.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia. Photo: Democracy Chronicles, CC

As in the rest of the world, the word ‘reform’ in this case is considered by many to be just a smokescreen for a way to bail out the Russian government at considerable harm to its citizens.

The issue raising such furor is a major change in the proposed age at which Russian citizens can begin to receive their pension. The first version of these proposals was announced on June 14. Then the proposal was to raise the age for women to receive pensions from 55 to 63 years old. For men the shift was from the current age 60 to start receiving funds to 5 years later, age 65.

Opinion polls in the country showed an estimated 90% of the population opposed the pension plan changes. Since that time, the country’s still highly-popular President Vladmir Putin saw his approval ratings drop by 10 percentage points. That is according to an in-country poll taken by the Levada Centre.

With nothing new announced from the government on the issue, Putin’s ratings stayed down and public disgust with the decisions continued to grow. While the public at large understood the pension age changes were intended to help with serious budget problems for the country, they also felt they were the ones being forced to tighten their belts while the oligarchs in charge able to continue spending as business as usual.

 Others opposing the government’s proposals noted that life expectancy in Russia as of 2018 was 66.4 years for men and 77.2 years for women. Many rightly observed that with the proposed pension changes in place, a much larger percentage of men than before might never collect even a single ruble of it.

On August 29, President Putin went on national television to attempt to calm the masses on the issue. Even with the President’s proposed compromise to shift the women’s pension age by only 5 years – from the current age 55 to 60 – versus the previously announced age 63, if anything the anger against the government grew worse after Putin’s showing. The men’s pension collection age shift remained the same, from age 60 to age 65. That may also have had something to do with people’s reactions to the speech. The other problem is that people still did not accept why they should have to bear the brunt of helping the country get stable again, when they had been working for their pensions all their lives.

This weekend an estimated 6,000 to 9,000 people gathered for a major rally against the pension reforms. Other groups in smaller sizes showed up to protest in Barnaul and Novosibirsk in Siberia, as well as in Vladivostok in Russia’ Far East.

Putin and his staff are taking the protests seriously, as evidence by the August 29 television appearance and the change of one key part of the pension plan reforms. It does not appear, however, that any other changes will come now before the new plan goes into effect.