Russian Pension Reforms Pass in Final Duma Reading

Controversial measure, which increases the retirement age, now goes to parliament’s upper house.

Russia’s controversial new pension reforms passed Thursday in its third and final lower house reading, bringing the retirement age for pension eligibility one step closer to increasing.

The controversial motion, which seeks to raise the retirement age by five years, now moves to the Federation Council (parliament’s upper house). If it passes there, President Vladimir Putin will make the final decision. The Russian government has not announced the timing on the upper chamber’s deliberations.

The bill originally passed in June’s first State Duma reading originally sought to raise the ages to 65 from 60 for men and to 63 from 55 for women. The backlash generated was so strong, Putin intervened with nine changes, one of which lowered the new women’s retirement age to 60 (no changes were made for the male pension age).

Another was to allow criminal charges to be brought against any companies that fire or refuse to hire those within five years of pension age, an age group known as “pre-retirement.” Part of that provision would add money to unemployment benefits. All Putin’s changes passed yesterday.

However, Putin’s changes were not enough to silence the many vocal foes of the higher-retirement-age legislation. The president’s approval ratings have taken a nosedive since the first reforms were announced on the first day of the World Cup. Protests have become such a regular occurrence that even opposing political parties have put their differences aside to battle the benefits changes.

Although the move is meant to shore up the nation’s economy, Russia’s low life expectancy (66 for men and 77 for women) means that a lot of people are skeptical about Putin’s good intentions.

They also haven’t forgotten the president’s 2005 promise, where he said the pension system would not be touched during his tenure. The older generation now sees retirement as an empty promise, while younger generations are afraid their employment opportunities are becoming limited because their elders won’t leave the job force.

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