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    Russia's retirement age to be raised in next few years - paper

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    Russia's retirement age may be raised in the next few years as part of sweeping reforms to the pensions system, Russian business daily Vedomosti said on Monday.

    Russia's retirement age may be raised in the next few years as part of sweeping reforms to the pensions system, Russian business daily Vedomosti said on Monday.

    Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin told the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum that raising the retirement age would help bring down the increasing budget deficit of Russia's Pension Fund and raise the average monthly pension allowance from the current 7300 rubles ($237) to 10,000 ($325.)

    He did not give any details, however, as to when the reform may come into effect or what the new retirement age may be.

    "It is difficult to discuss this. When the decision will be made, whether it's in one, two or five years time, isn't important," Kudrin said.

    The retirement age in Russia is much lower than in other European countries. The majority of men are entitled to retire at 60 and women at 55. Miners, lumberjacks, pilots, cosmonauts as well as a dozen other specialists are entitled to retire still earlier. However, given that the average life expectancy for Russian men is below 60, raising the retirement age would mean that many do no live to receive their pension.

    There are currently twice as many pensioners as there are workers, so pensions are paid from the payroll tax. However, an ageing population may cause the two figures to equalize by 2031, the Fund's chairman Anton Drozdov said.

    Nevertheless, Drozdov said, the reform would hardly tackle the Pension Fund's budget deficit, as it could only provide 90 billion rubles ($2.9 billion) at the very most - a drop in the ocean for the Fund's four-trillion ruble ($130 billion) budget.

    Opinions differ as to whether the reform may aid Russia's crumbling pension system, which has been in place since 1992.

    President Dmitry Medvedev's top economic aide Arkady Dvorkovich said there has not yet been any discussion on the question and that it would be agreed upon when the number of employed pensioners outnumbers the number of unemployed. Currently, only a third of Russia's pensioners are employed.

    The Public Chamber, Russia's state-controlled monitoring body, will hold a hearing later today on the retirement age.

    Russia's economic and demographic tendencies call for an increase in the retirement age, the Chamber's economic development head Valery Fadeyev said.

    He said "the major decisions should be made now," calling the reform "inevitable."

    Other important issues include pension services and labor regulations, he added.

    The Russian health minister's aide Sofia Malyavina said that while no decisions had yet been made, the ministry had already begun to "develop incentives for pensioners to leave work later."

    The thinking behind this is simple enough: "The earlier you retire, the lower the [pension] payment," Malyavina added.

    For all its advantages, the reform may only be brought in by 2014-2015, the Finance Ministry and Pension Fund said.

    The call to increase the retirement age was made as early as 2000, but no decisive reforms have yet been made.

    MOSCOW, June 21 (RIA Novosti)

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