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Putin Offers Concessions On Controversial Pension Reform Plan

RFE/RL August 29, 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed softening planned pension changes that have triggered angry protests across the country.

In a televised address to the nation on August 29, Putin suggested raising the state pension age by five years to 60 years for women, instead of the earlier proposed eight-year hike.

However, a five-year increase for men would stay.

Currently, the retirement age is 55 for women and 60 for men.

The issue of raising the retirement age has turned into the biggest domestic challenge Putin has faced since winning another term as president in March.

Experts, including cabinet members, have warned for years that a combination of factors -- life expectancy, the labor force, long-term budget forecasts -- require immediate changes to the country's Soviet-era pension system. But Putin and his government have postponed tackling the issue.

In July, parliament gave preliminary backing to a plan to raise the retirement age to 63 for women by 2034 and to 65 for men by 2028. That sparked protests in many cities, and Putin's popularity in opinion polls has noticeably decreased.

Putin promised that the bill would be amended to reflect his proposals.

"The bill raises the retirement age for women by eight years, to 63, while the retirement age for men is raised by five years. Of course, that won't do. This is wrong," Putin said.

Putin also said that women with three children will have the right to receive a state pension at the age of 57. He set the age at 56 and 50 for women with four and at least five children, respectively.

The government's proposed pension reform sparked widespread anger and undermined Putin's popularity after the plan was announced in June.

Russian men and women have life expectancies of 66 and 77, respectively, according to the World Health Organization, and critics have warned that many won't live long enough to claim a pension.

But Putin on August 29 insisted that raising the retirement age for men and women was essential because Russia's working-age population was shrinking.

He added that the reforms had been delayed for years and risked causing inflation and increasing poverty.

"Any further delay would be irresponsible," Putin said.

Tens of thousands have rallied against the proposed reform across Russia in recent weeks, and opposition politician Aleksei Navalny called for more mass protests on September 9.

Several people interviewed by RFE/RL in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg panned Putin's new proposals.

"From the beginning, it was clear that the president's approval rating was falling. So this is marketing, to raise it again," one woman, who declined to give her name, told RFE/RL. "I think it's very bad. Nobody will be happy."

"My father is 50 years old and he was looking forward to retiring" in 10 years, another man told RFE/RL. "Then they raised the retirement age. He was upset.… He doesn't like it. He was even planning to take part in a protest against it."

Ahead of the planned demonstrations, Russian authorities moved to keep Navalny from participating. Prosecutors sentenced him to 30 days in jail on August 27 for helping to organize an unsanctioned street rally in Moscow in January.

Source: controversial-pension-reform-plan/29459434.html

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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