Russian Retirement-Age Hike Advances As Putin’s Adjustment Approved
(Article ©2018 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – September 26, 2018 – article also appeared at rferl.org/a/duma-approves-putin-s-revised-proposal-to-raise-retirement-age-for-women/29510648.html)
An unpopular plan to raise the retirement age has advanced in the Russian legislature after lawmakers overwhelmingly approved President Vladimir Putin’s proposal to limit the increase for women to five years — to age 60 — instead of eight.
Deputies in the State Duma approved the Kremlin-backed bill in the crucial second of three readings, by a vote of 326-59 with one abstention, and the final vote in the lower parliament house is expected on September 27.
Approval in the second reading came hours after a separate vote in which Duma members backed Putin’s proposal to raise the retirement age for women from the current 55 to 60 instead of 63, as the legislation initially called for.
That change was backed by 385 members of the 450-seat Duma, deputy speaker Sergei Neverov said after the vote in September 26.
There were protests outside the Duma, but Neverov said there were no abstentions and no votes against Putin’s proposed change, which appeared aimed to decrease public anger over the planned retirement-age hike.
In June, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced that after many years without a change, the government was submitting legislation that would increase the retirement age for men from 60 to 65 by 2028 and for women from 55 to 63 by 2034.
The pension-reform plan swiftly led to protests and dented Putin’s approval rating despite several weeks of efforts to distance himself from the idea.
Putin finally weighed in with a televised address to the nation on August 29, proposing that the retirement age for women be raised to 60 rather than 63.
The Duma vote result indicates that Putin’s proposal was supported not only by the ruling United Russia party but also by many members of the other three parties in parliament — the Communists, the nationalist LDPR, and A Just Russia, which had voted en masse against the legislation in the first reading in August.
A senior Communist Party official, Yury Afonin, said that the Communists voted in favor of Putin’s proposed changes because “they make the [bill] better on the whole,” but added that the party “sharply opposes adoption of the [pension-reform] law in its final reading.”
However, United Russia has a majority in the Duma and is likely to be able to secure passage of the legislation without any votes from the other three parties that hold seats, as it did with a 327-102 vote in the first reading in July.
If it is passed in a third and final Duma reading, it would go to the upper house — also dominated by United Russia — and then to Putin for his signature.
The pension-reform legislation was introduced a month after Putin was sworn in for his fourth presidential term, which may be his last because the constitution bars him from running again in 2024.
Experts have warned for years that a combination of factors including life expectancy, the labor force, and long-term budget forecasts require immediate changes to Russia’s pension system, but Putin and his government had held off on seeking changes during his previous terms in office.
With reporting by Current Time TV, TASS, and Interfax
[featured images are file photos from other occasions]