Russia’s lower house of parliament approved President Vladimir Putin’s controversial pension reforms Tuesday, in the second of three readings.
Although Putin’s nine amendments are softer than the original changes the State Duma passed in June, they have not quelled public outcry.
The original measure would gradually raise the retirement ages to 65 from 60 for men and to 63 from 55 for women. Then came an enormous public backlash, with demonstrations. The result was Putin’s August revisions that reduced the age for women to 60 by 2034, but leaves the new male retirement age alone. That will fully take effect by 2028.
Putin softened the blow by adding some protections for Russians losing out on the retirement eligibility shift: those who now find themselves five years away from the new retirement ages—meaning men who lost the ability to retire at 60 and women at 55.
This group can claim higher unemployment benefits and they also receive employment guarantees. The government will punish companies for firing or refusing to hire the elderly without good reason. The State Duma passed these changes as well, adding the penalties to the criminal code.
The changes are being made to shore up Russia’s economy, but many remain unhappy nevertheless. That’s because the average Russian life expectancy is 66 for men and 77 for women. Constant protests have occurred since June, and Putin, who had been promising that there would be no pension reforms under his watch since 2005, has seen his approval ratings plummet.
In addition to social unrest, the measures have even sparked temporary allegiances between opposing political parties, such as the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and the People’s National Party. Another protest was held outside of parliament’s headquarters during the second reading.
Today will be the bill’s third and final Duma reading. If it passes there, it goes to the upper house, and then Putin’s desk.