Having increased the retirement age, did the authorities start to conceal the data?
Since 2017, Belarus has been gradually increasing the retirement age by six months - for men and women. Nevertheless, the authorities are already thinking about a new "pension reform". The idea about the introduction of equal retirement age for women and men was voiced.
Will Belarusian women retire at the age of 65 and why, despite the record-breaking deductions to the Social Security Fund (SSF) in the EEU, the authorities do not have enough money for pensions?
Henadz Fiadynich, the leader of the Independent Trade Union of Radio and Electronic Industry (REP), answers questions of Charter97.org.
- How would you comment on the idea of equalizing the retirement age for women and men?
- I treat this extremely negatively. Leave our girls alone!
Look at conditions they work under today. We do not have gender equality in terms of working conditions and wages. Besides, our women raise children and this has been excluded from the insurance period.
I believe that its exclusion from the insurance period is a huge mistake. Don't call the economy a reason: the country's leadership is to blame for the poor economy, not people.
Therefore, I am strictly against the unwise idea of equalizing the retirement age. Let the authorities first make a salary for women at least a thousand rubles a month, introduce financial defined contributions so that a person could get not 300 rubles, sacrificing all the conscious life to the economy. Then some issued may be discussed.
Now, these messages are damaging.
- Belarus leads among the EEU countries in contributions to the SSF. Enterprises deduct 34% of every salary, but the fund still lacks money. How would you comment on this?
- Indeed, Belarus deducts higher interest rates to the NSSF than Kazakhstan or Russia.
The authorities are not fully aware that more and more enterprises are trying not to pay to the SSF: they pay salaries under the counter, cut working hours and so on. 34% are very large figures that are included in the cost of services and goods.
But the figure may be reduced only after the increase in wages of people, as it happened in the neighbouring countries while a transition to financial defined contributions. It means a part of the contribution to the pension fund is paid by an employer and part by an employee.
If payments to the SSF are simply reduced, it will only aggravate the problem: there is already a large deficit of funds in the pension fund.
It all about the effectiveness of the economy. If it is poor, there will be problems with pensions. There are more than 100 thousand vacancies in the state database now. It means that another 100 thousand people did not want to work in Belarus. And they neither pay income tax nor contributions to the SSF.
- The tax manoeuvre of Russia may cause losses of $11 billion for Belarus over the next four years. The authorities hoped for compensation from Russia to the last, but on July 19, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that even the compensation issue sounded "incorrect." Will the authorities compensate for these budget losses at the expense of pensioners and working Belarusians?
- You know, it seems that the authorities have recently been trying to fix all their mistakes at the expense of the people.
Either it is a road toll, or a tax on "parasitism", or a retirement age increase. Regulations of restrictive nature are being issued. Nothing is done to motivate people to work and be economically active.
It a trap for any government, not only for the Belarusian authorities, to use only restrictive measures. After all, people are about to be deprived of everything.
I'd like to remind you that the tax manoeuvre was announced long ago and it was possible to foresee that Russia would refuse to compensate for it. And these mistakes are not the fault of the people, but the country's leadership. Yes, this is not easy, but there was time to enter other energy markets. And if nothing is done, nothing will happen. If one depends on one neighbouring state, sooner or later such misfortune may happen.
This happened to Belarus.
- Belarus is drastically losing its labour force, which means that contributions to the pension fund are also cut. Recently, "Ravkou's Law" was adopted. It toughens the rules of conscription into the army. Will it cause more young people to go abroad?
- You can't rule that out.
Such methods are unacceptable. Service in the army should be motivated, as well as work. Perhaps it was high time to think about a professional army, rather than forcing young people into it. Moreover, according to the Constitution, Belarus is a peaceful, nuclear-free state.
But if there is no opportunity to switch to the contract service, there are still many options for motivation. It is possible to guarantee the first job for the conscripts who served after school. It is possible to guarantee them free education after service. Finally, the service can be included in the insurance period.
And all these prohibitions and restrictions will do nothing. As a result, young people will simply leave and not come back.
- Commenting on the plans of the authorities to raise the retirement age, Belarusians note that many men won't be able to live to the retirement age. May it happen that the pension will become a mirage for a major part of the population?
- Unfortunately, no real statistics are available to the public. We do not know how many people live to retirement age today.
And even when it was raised only for a year and a half, it was unclear how many people would be left without a pension. Why do they hide this information?
After all, there were such statistics before. Why do they conceal the data who is left without a pension? A person has been making pension contributions all his life and doesn't know if he receives a pension. This situation is unhealthy.
Why does a person today, having devoted all his life to work, have nothing? This is nonsense. One cannot ignore it. The system must be changed. The economy cannot operate on restrictions alone - irreversible processes may begin.
- Those who are lucky enough to retire mention its poor size. We published the story of a Hrodna resident. Her pension was slightly more than a "minimum" wage after 31 years of service. How would you comment on it?
- I think this is not a single case. Belarusians live off pensions. At that, the cost of living, utilities are becoming more expensive. And if pensioners cannot pay for utilities, will they be evicted?
Now it has become a challenge for pensioners to pay for the utilities, to buy medicines, and even to have some money left for food.
Couldn't the authorities have the courage to say that this pension is a mockery of people? If you can't support people, admit it. But do not pretend that everything is fine and "Belarus is a country for life". This approach is a huge mistake.