Whether the country and pensioners need a Pension Fund at all - Novye Izvestia was investigating.
Yelena Ivanova, Natalia Seibil
In an aging country, the topic of shortcomings in the government department responsible for pensioners very quickly goes from bureaucratic to political. In Russia, 40% of voters - 44 million people - are pensioners. A lot depends on their mood, so any information about the Pension Fund immediately hits the top of the news. They have been reforming the pension system for a long time and with pleasure. Over the past 20 years, the state has changed it at least ten times. But for someone to come out with a radical idea to simply close it - this happened for the first time.
The leader of Fair Russia party Sergey Mironov called to abolish the fund and pay pensions directly from the budget. According to him, the fund's expenses for staff, offices and IT infrastructure do not justify themselves.
To understand whether this initiative has any basis, or, as some of the experts we interviewed say, is pure political PR before the September elections, it is necessary to clarify what the Pension Fund is doing.
In Russia, a three-tier strategy for the pension system was initially laid down. The first level is state pensioners: the military, employees of power structures, civil servants. The second level is compulsory pension insurance. It includes 70-80% of employees for whom employers pay pension contributions. The third level is voluntary insurance. In the second group in 2002 there was a split of accounts. In addition to the compulsory pension insurance account, savings accounts have appeared.
- When money goes to endowment insurance accounts, it is immediately spent on current retirees. Money from savings accounts is not spent on current retirees. To protect this money, it needs to be invested. This is done by the state management company represented by Vnesheconombank. Citizens can dispose of and transfer money from accumulative insurance accounts to non-state management companies, - says Yulia Finogenova, professor at the Department of Finance and Prices of the PRUE. G.V. Plekhanov.
But endowment insurance accounts are more of a theory. They have been frozen since 2015. In total, 5 trillion rubles are not moving. This is almost a third of the pension contributions of citizens under 52 years old. The system calls itself an insurance system, but citizens' money has not been invested for five years. There were rumors that the state was about to open up the money box. We need money for national projects, and the covid has had a heavy impact on the country's budget, and it is not known what other consequences will affect the finances.
The opponents of the Pension Fund have grounds for criticism. Of the 9 trillion rubles of the Pension Fund budget, 30-40% are budget allocations. Obviously, part of the subsidies goes to pay pensions, otherwise why should the state pay 3-4 trillion a year, not for the construction of luxurious buildings, as critics grieve. That is, the system is subsidized.
Non-state pension funds that emerged in the early 2000s have never become an alternative to the state-owned Leviathan. When asked whether non-state funds are popular in Russia, Konstantin Ugryumov, president of the National Association of Non-State Pension Funds (NAPF), answers without hesitation:
- Of course not! Despite the fact that we have 37 million clients and 4 trillion in assets, the culture of long-term insurance is still very poorly developed in Russia. People have doubts and phobias associated with endless crises, changes in the rules of the game in the pension system. Over the past twenty years, the rules of the game have changed at least ten times, more and more new ideas have been introduced, which have not been fully implemented. Therefore, people experience a certain skepticism about non-state pension funds.
At the same time, the trillions, which the president of the NAPF says, is the same funded part of the pension. Just half of the citizens left her in the Pension Fund, and the other half transferred to non-state institutions. And only only 6 million people, or rather, their employers pay contributions for employees for a real non-state pension. Wealthy enterprises, mainly oil companies and banks, offer employees a social package, part of which goes to non-state pensions.
- The tax deduction (for employees) is 15 thousand rubles per year. For the employer, this is also not interesting, because for him there are no preferences for non-state pension insurance. In addition to compulsory pension insurance, he also carries on himself and non-state insurance. 6% of the wage bill can be shifted to the prime cost, but this is not so interesting from the tax point of view, says Yulia Finogenova.
Overseas workers pay 2-4% of their wages to supplement their pension. The employer reports the same amount. Firms benefit because they cut the tax burden by the same amount and they incentivize workers to double their savings for old age.
- Even in "young" America, the system of pension funds is more than a hundred years old. And we have only twenty-five. I'm not talking about England, where the first pension funds appeared two hundred years ago. It's a matter of insurance culture. On the one hand - the readiness of people to take care of their old age, and on the other hand - the ability or lack of it to postpone for old age. If, according to various estimates, about 35 million people live below the poverty line, then what kind of savings can we talk about? What a long-term procrastination! - exclaims Konstantin Ugryumov.
That is, in order to have decent pensions, you need to receive a decent salary. A private pension will remain a dream for many future retirees, because they live from paycheck to paycheck.
- The current development of the financial sector and economic and institutional environment is not conducive to the development of pension savings. For example, financial and economic crises occur with a certain regularity in Russia, which devalue savings, so the trust in market-based instruments for forming pensions is not yet very high, - says Yuri Gorlin, Deputy Director for Science of the Institute for Social Analysis and Forecasting (INSAP), RANEPA.
There is nothing to replace the pension fund with now - this is the opinion of experts. Today the PF maintains millions of retirement accounts. There is not a single structure that could take over these functions.
- In the Russian pension insurance system, the PF plays too important a role as an administrator. He maintains 150 million accounts, he has branches everywhere. The availability of PF services should be ubiquitous. If you remove it, but who will perform this function - Sberbank? I see no alternative to the insurer, given the structure that we now have in Russia, which could take on the same function. The costs will not decrease under any circumstances, but the convenience for the end user will be much less, says Yulia Finogenova.
Experts call the idea of transferring the functions of distributing pensions to the state as a surge of political activity, since it means a return to the Soviet distribution system. They suspect politicians of complete incompetence. Approximately, as in the question of returning the retirement age. “When people say this, do they themselves believe that this is possible? Of course not, ”- this is the general opinion of the expert community. Who will calculate pensions when assigning pensions? Who will pay the maternity capital? And what about lump sum payments, social pensions?
- Precisely because its functions are not limited solely to the payment of pensions, in the foreseeable future it is hardly possible and advisable to seriously consider the proposal to liquidate the PFR. Other departments cannot perform these tasks due to the lack of appropriate infrastructure, qualifications of employees, - says Yuri Gorlin.
So the Pension Fund will remain. The Accounts Chamber will slap hands if something is wrong. And citizens should hope that someday their salary will allow them to live with dignity and in old age, and not expect mercy from national projects in one and a half percent a year, which will not even cover the annual inflation. And when they once again go to the ballot boxes, they must remember that pensioners are a political force.