Astghik Pirumyan hopes the conditions for
pensioners will be better when her daughter
is her age.
A new law on retirement benefits may help Armenia
achieve gender balance among its working population,
however, the short-term effect has created controversy
among present pensioners.
On March 31 President Robert Kocharyan signed
the law changing retirement age for women to 63
(previously 59) and lowering the age for men from
64 to 63.
"The new law gives a chance for women to
work longer and increase seniority and therefore
get salary longer which is higher than a pension,"
says Artem Asatryan, head of the Pension Security
Department of the Ministry of Social Security.
Asatryan says that the pension age for women
will be converted in six month stages, so that
by 2011 retirement age for men and women will
be the same.
But some pensioners are saying the change in
law ignores reality in Armenia. Specifically,
many citizens who are not yet retirement age find
themselves unemployable because of their age,
yet not old enough to receive a pension.
Zhanna Matevosyan, an unemployed refugee from
Baku, had worked for almost 40 years. She does
not get a pension, however, as she is only 58.
She lives in Praga hotel on Komitas street with
other refugees and survives on a 4,000 dram (about
$7) disability pension.
"Before this new law I hoped that I would
get a pension of at least 5,000 drams (about $9)
starting next year," Matevosyan says. "But
now I have to wait for two more years.
"I don't know how I will survive any longer,
when (the government) makes the pension age even
higher. How many people will see their pension?
Should we all be reduced to poverty and death
and then get pension?"
Asatryan says that the most valuable part of
the new law is an introduction of the individual
coefficient of a pensioner.
According to the new law each pensioner will
get an individual coefficient. For those people
whose working experience is less than 25 years
the individual coefficient will make less than
one. That will mean that to the basic pension
of 3,000 drams will be added 2,500 dram (100 for
each year). Those people whose length of service
is more than 25 years the coefficient is more
than one. For example for people with 40 years
experience the coefficient is 1.3. That will mean
that in addition to a basic pension of 3,000 drams
another 100 drams will be added for each year
of work multiplied by the individual coefficient.
In other words the longer a person works, the
higher the pension will be.
In Armenia where the monthly cost of living ranges
from 28,000 - 35,000 ($50-$60), pensioners are
the most vulnerable. Even the highest pension
hardly satisfies basic needs.
Asatryan and others who administer pension
plans say the pension age will be the same
for men and women by 2011.
Marieta and Sergey Arustamyan are pensioners
receiving 11,000 drams (about $19).
"We have debt for electricity, water and
other community services," Marieta says.
"Our pension is hardly enough for bread,
sugar and potatoes."
Both Marieta and Sergey have working experience
of 30 years. They had hoped their pension would
increase. But under the coefficient system the
increase will be only 1,000 drams.
According to the Ministry of Social Security,
there are 543,000 pensioners in Armenia. This
year's budget for pensions is 38 billion drams
(about $65 million).
The minimum pension is 3,000 (about $5) and the
average is 6,200 drams (about $10). The average
worker's salary in Armenia is 24,000 drams (about
According to social statistics at least 23 percent
of pensioners survive mostly due to humanitarian
assistance - most of it coming from Paros (the
Armenian charitable organization), which gives
each of the 23 percent 4,000 drams per month.
According to other estimations almost half of
pensioners are underfed. A loaf of bread in Armenia
is 100 dram. One kilogram of meat is 1,200, sugar
is 200 (the same is lentil, rice and potatoes).
With the minimal $5 a month, a pensioner could
afford only to buy 30 loaves of bread.
Astghik Pirumyan, an 80-year-old pensioner, says
in wintertime she has to choose whether to buy
bread or heat her apartment. She has a daughter
who is married, but she lives in poor financial
conditions, too, and cannot help her mother.
"There was a time when I was young and
healthy. I never thought that in my old age I
would survive on other people's mercy."
Her neighbors help her by providing bread and
rice. Pirumyan says she does not complain of her
life but rather thinks of how her daughter will
live when she too becomes a pensioner.