Thursday, November 28, 2019

Putin’s Pension Reform ‘Threatens Unity of Russia,’ New Study Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 24 --  Because employment possibilities for the elderly are much better in some parts of the Russian Federation than in others, Vladimir Putin’s pension reform now “threatens the unity of the country,” according to a study conducted by the Novosti news agency (

            Pensioners who want or need to keep working have far more opportunities to do so in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and the non-chernozem regions, predominantly ethnic Russian areas, and far fewer in the non-Russian republics of Chechnya, Tuva and the Altai, a pattern that deepens the split between rich and poor areas and between Russians and non-Russians.

            And that is true even in non-Russian regions in the North with economies based on extraction of oil and gas, industries that present few opportunities for employment for the elderly. Thus, these non-Russian areas also find themselves alongside other non-Russian areas in this regard if not in others.

            Dmitry Rodionov of Svobodnaya pressa spoke with two experts about this development, Ivan Lizan, a Moscow political scientist, and Vladimir Burakov, president of the Pensioners Party of Russia (

            Lizan said that the results of the Novosti study were no surprise because “the unequal development of the country means the unequal distribution of regions as far as attractive conditions for work for pensioners” and because pensioners are among the least mobile groups and do not move to compensate for the problems that confront them where they live.

            Burakov agreed on both counts, noting that regional differences in this regard are enormous and that the government’s current policies, ranging from roads to medical care, are intensifying such inequality rather than equalizing the regions, with pensioners being the social group hit hardest.

             The situation in many non-Russian republics is dire and pension reform has exacerbated nationalist feelings; but “an even more difficult situation is to be found in poor [but predominantly ethnic Russian] regions” like Pskov and Smolensk, areas that appear to have no way to defend themselves and few lobbying on their behalf.

            Burakov pointed to three larger problems that have arisen as a result of the pension age boost. First, “people in older age groups are being transformed into a cheap labor force,” one that is seldom able to defend its rights; and the lower wages paid this group have the effect of pushing down wages among younger cohorts, especially among those just before pension age.

            Second, the experience of their elders, he said, is leading ever more young Russians to conclude that they have no future in their own country and should therefore seek to move abroad to live and work, something that may save the government in the short term but will cost the country its future.

            And third, Burakov added, the chief victims of the Kremlin’s pension reform are women because they have to work far longer than men do once they are pensioned and the fact that they are allowed to retire earlier than men does not sufficiently compensate for the fact that aging among women accelerates while among men it slows.

            As a result, the Pension Party leader suggested, the government’s boosting of the pension age is leading to more premature deaths among older women than would have been the case had the pension age not been increased.

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