Russian President Vladimir Putin’s approval ratings have plummeted since last month, when officials announced a proposal to gradually push the state pension age to 63 for women and 65 for men.
The policy marks the first change to retirement norms since they were established during the 30’s. Retirement ages are currently set at 55 and 60.
The change, which will occur gradually over the next 15 years, is expected to increase Moscow’s value-added tax from 18% to 20%. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who announced the proposal on June 14th, described the tax increase as “unavoidable and long overdue.”
Last Thursday, Russian lawmakers voted 328-104 in a preliminary vote on the proposal.
According to statistics, nearly 60% of Russian men die before age 65. And while the average Russian woman lives to age 73, employment opportunities in old age are sparse. If the proposal is approved, a large portion of Russians will work until the day they die.
“I’ve worked my whole life and paid taxes, and now the government wants to chase me out of my pension,” complains Stanislav Orlov, 47.
Meanwhile, roughly 15% of the Russian population lives in poverty with monthly incomes of less than $157. The average pension is about $230 per month.
According to polls, more than 90% of Russians oppose the increase in retirement age. Over 2.5 million Russians have signed a petition calling on Putin to abandon the plan.
“For the first time, Putin’s ratings aren’t coinciding with the ratings of Mother Russia,” says political commentator Andrei Kolesnikov. “Mother Russia is rising, but the father of the nation is falling and dragging down with him all government institutions.”
Opposition to the policy change has pushed Putin’s approval ratings down from 77% to 63% – the lowest they have been since the controversial annexation of Crimea in 2014.
“Medvedev and Putin raising the pension age is a genuine crime,” insists Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. “It’s a simple robbery of tens of millions of people masquerading as a necessary reform.”
Putin, who in 2005 promised he would never increase the state pension age, claims the policy change is necessary in order to boost economic growth.