By Shakeh Avoyan
Armenia will ratify a pan-European charter on social rights by January 2004 in accordance with its Council of Europe commitments, but will need many more years to fully comply with its far-reaching provisions, officials said on Tuesday.
The European Social Charter adopted in 1961 spells out a wide range of economic rights which must be protected by the governments of the countries making up the Council of Europe. Armenia undertook to sign up to the treaty when it became a member of the Strasbourg-based organization in January 2001.
“We are going to prepare for the ratification of the charter in the next two years,” Minister of Social Security Razmik Martirosian told RFE/RL. “We are also going to reform and improve our system of social security as part of those preparations.”
But other officials familiar with the document cast doubt on Yerevan’s ability to comply with its main provisions after the ratification. One of them said it will take decades before the authorities can guarantee all Armenian citizens decent living conditions.
The official minimum salary of 5,000 drams ($9) in Armenia is far below the subsistence-level consumer basket of 23,800 calculated by the ministry of health. Martirosian said his ministry will propose to set the minimum salary at 13,000 drams in a new Labor Code which is currently in the works.
Armenia will find it difficult to comply with the right to employment -- one of the most important provisions of the European Social Charter. The country is suffering from a huge level of unemployment, its number one social problem.