Dozens of young specialists are resigning from Armenia’s state-run universities and research institutes in order to be able to opt out of a controversial national retirement plan introduced by the government.
The new system requires workers born after 1973 to earn most of their future pensions by contributing sums equivalent to 10 percent of their gross wages to private pension funds until their retirement. The reform, initially introduced in January, met with fierce resistance from many affected Armenians, most of them employed by private firms, and was effectively blocked by the Constitutional Court in April.
The government responded by making the pension reform mandatory only for 65,000 or so public sector employees. A government bill approved by parliament in June allowed people working for private entities not to be covered by the new system until July 2017.
The vast majority of private sector employees are believed to have opted for a three-year deferment. But those of them who also have part-time public sector jobs are denied such a choice, with tax authorities also making the sizable deductions from their wages paid by private employers.
Among them are young academics and scientists. Several dozen of them have decided to quit state-run universities and research centers that are part of the Armenian National Academy of Sciences.
Four such specialists have until now taught at the microelectronics department of the State Engineering University of Armenia (SEUA), while having well-paid jobs in the country’s burgeoning information technology sector. The department chief, Vahe Buniatian, admitted on Monday that he will have serious trouble replacing them by other skilled lecturers.
Ara Simonian, the rector of Yerevan State University (YSU), said on Monday that a dozen of his young lecturers also employed in the private sector have likewise tendered their resignations. He said many others are ready to follow suit if the authorities fail to make the reform optional for them before the end of this year.
“We have raised our concerns with the education minister [Armen Ashotian,]” Simonian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Mr. Ashotian is aware of the problem. The minister believes that the problem is understandable and he hopes that it will find some solution.”
The YSU rector could not say, however, what concrete solution could be proposed by the government.
“You can’t solve a problem with concerns,” said Tigran Grigorian, a young scientist leaving the National Academy of Sciences. “Concrete steps are needed.”