Putin Slightly Softens Retirement Plan Overhaul

Russian leader would raise pension eligibility for women by only five years instead of eight.

Russian President Vladimir Putin put a minor cushion on Russia’s pension reform proposals Wednesday, a move that hopes to end public backlash that led to his lowest approval ratings in four years.

In a televised broadcast, Putin motioned to raise the national retirement ages to shore up the state’s finances, but not as high for women as the Russian government proposed in June, which incited protest almost immediately.

Putin proposed the retirement age for women be increased from 55 to 60 instead of the initial 63. Women with three and four children are allowed to retire three and four years early. Mothers of five or more would still be allowed to retire at age 50.

As for the men, Putin kept parliament’s original increase from age 60 to 65 intact.

Would-be pensioners in the next two years under the old law will be allowed to retire six months early.

“The proposed changes to the pension system will not only allow maintaining the level of pensioners’ incomes but also, most importantly, will ensure their stable growth ahead of inflation,” said Putin.

Russia’s life expectancy is 66 years for men and 77 for women, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization.

The original proposals passed in the first of three readings of the State Duma (Russia’s lower house) last month, sparking further protest. Since parliament introduced the reform, Putin had distanced himself from the issue until recently, after his approval ratings slipped..

For a bill to become law in Russia, it must pass all three readings in the State Duma before it heads to the upper house. Once it is approved there, it rests on the president’s shoulders.

Another idea Putin recommended was an advanced jobs training program for pre-retirement employees, or workers within five years of receiving benefits under the new law, and introduce “administrative and criminal liability” against employers who fire and refuse to hire older generations. 

He also suggested more than doubling the maximum monthly unemployment compensation for pre-retirement workers from 4,900 rubles ($72) to 11,280 ($165.86) starting January 1, 2019. The payments would last up to one year.

Pensioners would also keep their tax benefits before the reform is finalized. Some state payments and payments for individuals who live in rural areas would be raised.

In addition, Putin proposed cutting the length of employment required for an early retirement. This is available for professions ranging from police officers and teachers to doctors and miners. Putin suggested lopping off three years for a new 42-year total for men and 37 for women.

The State Duma group in charge of the pension bill will discuss Putin’s requests on Friday, Russian news organization Interfax reports.

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