Russian President Vladimir Putin has faced an unusual dip in popularity recently as his government has moved to adjust proposed changes to Russia’s pension plan, which includes raising the mandatory retirement age.
On Wednesday, Putin gave an unusual televised address to his nation in which he announced a softening of the proposed changes to the retirement age.
In June, Putin proposed to raise the retirement age for women from 55 years old up to 63 years old, and for men, up to 65 from 60. The announcement was made during the first day of the World Cup in Russia.
In softening the plan, Putin said the new retirement age for women will be raised to 60 instead of 63, while the increase for men will remain the same.
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Since the original June announcement, the president has received backlash to the proposal.
Putin’s political foe Alexei Navalny had called for a protest to the change on Sept. 9, but was jailed on Monday for 30 days due to an unsanctioned protest seven months earlier. Navalny has said that his detainment is illegal and was done to stop him from organizing his pension reform protest.
In Wednesday’s address, Putin explained the change to the public, asserting that the change “cannot be put off any longer” due to Russia’s economy and demographic trends, and without change, Russia’s pension system “would crack and eventually collapse.”
Russia’s economy has been hobbled in recent years due to falling oil prices and Western sanctions over the 2014 annexation of Crimea.
The country also faces a demographic crisis in the near future due to extremely low birth rates that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.
It is rare for Putin to explain policy to the public or give televised speeches — he did not give an address after the Crimea annexation, when Russia moved to send troops to Crimea and eventually annexed the territory from Ukraine.
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Opinion polls have shown that around 90 per cent of the Russian population oppose the original proposed change to the pension plan. The issue has affected Putin’s popularity, according to the Levada Centre pollster, bringing his popularity down from 80 per cent to 67 per cent earlier in the year — its lowest since before the Crimea annexation.
Raising the retirement age would allow the government to pay out bigger pensions, but some question whether they would live to see the money. The average life expectancy in Russia is 67 for men and 78 for women.
With files from Global News reporter Eric Stober and Reuters