Russian President Vladimir Putin may be considering lightening his unpopular pension reform proposals, which have generated his lowest approval rating in years.
The changes would raise the retirement age to 65 from 60 for men and to 63 from 55 for women to help shore up state finances. Putin had once vowed to never raise the retirement age.
This planned overhaul sparked a public backlash, with the first of several protests on June 14, the day the alterations were announced and Russia’s first match in the World Cup. The proposals have tanked his approval ratings, with polls showing 90% of the population against the move. Putin has distanced himself from the issue for the past month, originally claiming he had no knowledge of the outrage and then refusing to comment publicly.
Recently, he has seemed to have second thoughts about the retirement-age issue. “I ask you not to forget that our decisions will affect the fates of millions of people and must be fair. One should not act mechanically, formally, but only take a balanced and cautious approach,” Putin said, according to Reuters.
In a government meeting Tuesday in the Siberian city of Omsk, he said he would voice his opinion as early as today. He also admitted to knowing about the population’s unhappiness, calling it “a predictable reaction” and a “rather sharp discussion in public.”
A Putin spokesperson said the slip in Putin’s approval ratings did not lead to the president’s decision to intervene in the retirement changes.
In July, the reforms were approved by Russian lawmakers in the first of three readings. The pension plans must pass all three readings in the State Duma (Russia’s lower house) then be passed in the upper house before Putin can make it a law.
Putin is asking the government to speak with political parties, public parties, and regional administrations before the pension proposal’s second reading.
“Clearly, every decision regarding the interests of citizens—mainly the elderly citizens, their labor rights, medical assistance and social security—must be made with a forward-thinking approach,” he said.