1. There were no more than 2,000-3,000 people protesting in Moscow about the raising of the retirement age (at most). This is the definition of “storm in a teacup.”
2. Navalny bandwagoning on this issue is particularly implausible, since he is an economic neoliberal. Which, to be sure, is one of the exceeding few good things about him. (Before the Putin cultists get here – you do realize your god is an economic neoliberal too? And that’s a good thing, because we don’t want to end up like Venezuela, which is what would happen if someone like Glazyev was running the economy). But thankfully, Muscovites are intelligent enough to see through Navalny’s charade – even if Western PDS sufferers are not, seeing in this the germs of the next Russian revolution.
3. The usual photos of Russian policemen brutally harassing children were making the rounds on my Facebook feed. Here’s a more complete picture:
4. At the outset, I predicted that raising the retirement age (Russia’s is currently the lowest in all Europe) will be a temporary jolt to the Kremlin’s popularity ratings, just like the monetization of benefits reform in 2005, and will not translate into significant discontent.
This seems to have been correct. After having slumped from ~78% to ~62%, Putin’s approval ratings are slowly climbing up again in the past few weeks, and the protests have failed to materialize into anything substantial. Indeed, the pensioner protests of 2005 were significantly larger and more disruptive.
5. The main bad news is that the Kremlin has softened the reform, only raising the retirement age for women by 5 years instead of 8 years; consequently, there remains a 5 year gap between men and women.
Furthermore, there will be a year cut off for every child that women have above two, while the retirement age will remain 50 years for those with 5 or more children. While in principle I support lower retirement ages for women with children, on both “social justice” (there can’t be any reasonable doubt that women have to invest much more into children relative to men) and pro-natality grounds (Russia’s TFR = 1.6 children is not catastrophic, but trends are negative, and it’s still far too low), this seems like a pretty bad way to structure it, since it will overwhelmingly be lower IQ ethnic minorities benefitting from this. (Families of 5 or more amongst ethnic Russians are practically unheard of). This means that we might now get the spectacle of a Russian man in Irkutsk with an LE of 65 retiring at 65, while a Chechen woman with an LE of 80 gets to retire at 50.
Here is how I would structure the pensions reform:
- Equalize retirement age for both sexes at 63-65 years by 2030, then set at a percentage of life expectancy. The latter is a highly fair, sustainable, and technocratic solution that has already been implemented in Netherlands and Estonia, countries with highly intelligent and disciplined citizenries that enable the legislation of good policies.
- Drop the retirement age for women for every child they have up to some rational limit like 5 children. Also tie it to not having a criminal record.
Unfortunately, the Kremlin’s policy-making is far less effective than that, and regionally haphazard.
For instance, Moscow Mayor Sobyanin has informally promised that the retirement age will remain as is for Muscovites, with the city budget making up the difference. Moscow, as the only Russian region where life expectancy has converged to Western levels, obviously needs to keep the Soviet retirement age – when Muscovites lived a decade less – more than anybody else in the Russian Federation. But on the “plus” side, this helped Sobyanin to convincingly win the Moscow Mayoral elections yesterday, getting 70% of the vote.
All of these concessions to populist demotism have substantially weakened the benefits of this reform.