January 1 the average pension in Armenia became
6,600 drams (about $10.30) a month, a 2,000 dram
increase over last year. There are 542,000 pensioners
in the republic.
According to the Statistical Service of the Republic
of Armenia, during the last six years the number
of pensioners decreased by 54,200 people or by
8.9 percent, a figure explained by the reduction
in the average lifetime, as well as intense migration
of the population.
In interviews by ProMedia, 76 percent of respondents
said the next President should further increase
the allotment to the nation's pensioners.
"The amount of pensions is a reflection
of the economic product. Also the better the tax
system will work, the higher pensions will be,"
says Ashot Yesayan, deputy Minister of Social
Security. "Two and a half years ago Social
Insurance Foundation had a debt of 4 billion (drams).
Now it has managed to pay it back and to increase
pensions by one-third. It is due to good work.
If you don't make a person pay the tax, he or
she won't do that. The foundation is generated
from those taxes. They distribute whatever they
Social Insurance Foundation has been established
to protect pensions from the budget. Employers
are required to pay 20 to 22 percent of each salary
to the insurance foundation.
Some 96,000 socially vulnerable pensioners also
get a poverty allowance of 4,000 drams from the
budget. Yesayan says that allowance has to be
proportionate to the minimal salary (5000 drams)
and to the pension, meaning it shouldn't exceed
However, 76-year-old Lida Khudoyan, whose only
income is 7,100 drams pension, is deprived of
the allowance as far as the family of her son
living in Dubna, Russia is registered in her place.
Her son works in a State-funded scientific institution.
His mother says he is hardly managing a living
for his four-member family off his salary.
This thought expressed in the article "Poverty
and Inequality in Europe and Central Asia"
of the World Bank year 2000 report: "Pensioners
that hoped to have unworried old age found themselves
to be left with nothing," can be referred
to Lida Khudoyan.
Lida who has 41-year job seniority spends her
pension for food, public utilities' payments,
and refueling of a three-litre gas balloon: "I
pay 1,500 drams for bread, buy macaroni, or vegetables
in summer. I don't use public transportation means,
because one or two mini-bus travels will affect
the quantity of my food. Friends give me things
to wear. I didn't have coat and shoes and they
gave them to me. When I am getting ill they suggest
buying medicines for me, but I say that I don't
like taking medicines, not to let them spend money."
Lida is not able to heat her apartment. She is
wrapped in several blankets and doesn't leave
her bed. She doesn't have a thermometer, but one
can conclude the temperature is below zero Celsius,
as far as water is freezing.
A few times she applied for the allowance, but
she was refused: "The last time they said
rudely - no, this will not work out."
"We have a principle of social guardianship's
exception to make people look for other income
instead of hoping to get allowance only,"
says Yesayan. "In case a pensioner has a
grown-up child, the latter has to care for his
parent. In case the child doesn't implement his
duties a parent can apply to a court to demand
Pensioner Lena Hovsepyan, 73, with a 40-year
job seniority spends her 7,000-dram pension and
allowance for only food.
"It had some impact, when my pension increased
by 2,000 drams, however, it was not very dramatic,"
she says. Lena has arthritis and she can hardly
Unlike Lida her apartment has been heated for
two years. A Non-Governmental Organization "Mission
Armenia", which is implementing social and
healthcare program for 6,000 pensioners, pays
Lena's electricity charges and provided her with
an electric heater and free medicines of vital
necessity. Through the NGO program, some 3,000
pensioners get full services - food, and healthcare.
"We are constantly trying to involve new
needy people. Before, we even looked for them,
however, these days there are so many applicants
that we haven't got time for searching,"
says president of Mission Armenia Hripsime Kirakosyan.
"There are many poor old people, who don't
know about us, however, whoever applies he or
she will get aid. We have possibilities."
The organization, with a 450-member staff, opened
21 charitable canteens in eight regions of the
republic for needy elderly and also created rehabilitation
centers. Besides, workers of that organization
repair pensioners' apartments and provide them
with medical treatment and other services at home.
The organization's budget is supported by foreign
donors. Kirakosyan supposes that the government
must develop standards concerning the problems
on social insurance, allot the money from budget
and order NGOs to carry out projects using those
standards as it's not possible to always hope
for foreign aid.
Both Lida and Lena are in the poorest stratum
of the republic's population, who, according to
the researches assisted by World Bank and conducted
by National Statistics Service, make 16 percent
of the population. Comparing with 1998 the index
(22.91) fell by about seven percent.
The poorest group has expenses of about $1 per
day. According to the same researches, 50.9 percent
of the population is poor (in 1998 the index was
55.05 percent). Each in that category spends about
$2 per day. (The 16 percent of the poorest people
are in that 50.9 percent.)
"The improvement of social conditions is
conditioned only by economic growth," says
the World Bank's Vigen Sargsyan. "There is
an average standard, which indicates that if annual
growth is more than 10 percent the level of poverty
is decreasing (officially economic growth made
12.9 percent in 2002). It's impossible to wait
for the moment that all the questions will be
resolved at once. The growth with double-digit
numbers must be stable in the conditions of social
tension so that the level of poverty could be
decreased step by step."