Every third senior Russian citizen is included in the labour force, with approximately 20% of Russian pensioners being officially employed. At the 5th St Petersburg International Labour Forum, sociologists from St Petersburg University presented the outcomes of their research. Respondents aged 40 and over indicated that ageism was the key reason for employment being refused. 

The empirical study was titled ‘Subjective structures of perception and assessment of the active ageing policy in Russia’. Sociologists from St Petersburg University studied 340 appeals of elderly people to government agencies, and conducted interviews with older workers, experts and employers’ representatives.

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‘In general, the perception of experts and employers corresponds to the true essence of the active ageing policy,’ said Irina Sizova, Professor at St Petersburg University. ‘They emphasise the increased qualification requirements for workers and reject the established stereotypes regarding the employment of the elderly. However, instead of acknowledging the current negative situation, the experts are more willing to try to construct the future and stress the undesirability of returning to the past experience. Only in one topic do they tend to be pessimistic. In their opinion, there is no place for the elderly in the high-tech economy.’

The experts talked about current issues associated with the inclusion of elderly people in social and labour activities in the framework of the discussion ‘Work and employment in older age’ at the 5th St Petersburg International Labour Forum. The discussion was moderated by Irina Grigoryeva, Professor at St Petersburg University, leading research associate at the Sociological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Elderly people interpret reforms in the social and labour sphere in a different way. ‘Their selfpresentation is largely exaggerated with age, which they consider to be a showstopper for them,’ said Irina Sizova. ‘They tend to trust rumours and gossip about the horrors of ageism in the job market. During interviews, they often appeal to the experience of their acquaintances, who have been fired because of their age. However, none of our respondents have come across this themselves.’ At the same time, the expert points out that ageism as the primary reason for refusing employment is indicated by people who are far from retirement age — starting from the age of 40.

The active ageing policy, which is being implemented in the advanced world, implies the creation of a sufficient number of jobs adapted for elderly people. Irina Grigoryeva, the discussion moderator, Professor at St Petersburg University, cited statistics that people over 60 make up 19% of the population of Russia.

This is not a lot by the standards of developed countries. The crisis is not in the increase in the number of the elderly, but in the maladjustment of social institutions, which are geared towards a different age composition of society. A simple measure is to cancel the upper age limit of working ability, which itself is ageist and discriminatory.

Irina Grigoryeva, Professor at St Petersburg University, leading research associate at the Sociological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Today, a fifth of Russian pensioners are involved in labour relations, with a third being included in the work force. At the same time, the number of working pensioners registered in the Pension Fund of the Russian Federation has almost halved over the past five years: from more than 15,000,000 in 2016 to 8,891,000 in 2021. Nataliia Shestakova, leading research associate at the Institute of Regional Economy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, attributes this to the decision to end the indexation of pensions for working pensioners in 2017.

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‘As a rule, elderly people continue working in very high positions. Or, conversely, if they have been fired, they try to find a new job and are employed in low-paid and low-skilled jobs,’ said Nataliia Shestakova. ‘There is a quite popular belief that the skills and competencies of the older generation are not relevant, and do not correspond to the cutting-edge level of development. Elderly people therefore cannot qualify for something more significant.’

The 5th St Petersburg International Labour Forum was held for the first time in both Russian capitals in a mixed format from 19 to 23 April 2021. The organisers of the Forum are the government of St Petersburg, St Petersburg University, and the Interparliamentary Assembly of the CIS Member Nations with the support of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and the Federal Service for Labour and Employment of the Russian Federation.

Improving their financial position is one of the strongest motivations for staying in employment for Russian pensioners. However, speaking about the involvement of the older generation in labour activity, it is important to look at this issue more broadly, said Galina Barysheva, Head of the International Scientific Educational Laboratory for the Improvement of Wellbeing Technologies of Older Adults at Tomsk Polytechnic University: ‘At present, the post-industrial society, the new economy, and the transformation of the labour market impose a new approach to implementing the labour potential of the older generation. The industrial age reduced the implementation of human potential to welfare, savings, and tangible assets. Correspondingly, today’s knowledge economy is primarily community relief, the continuity of meeting needs, including the need for self-expression, and involvement in society.’