More Pension Law Controversy: Young state-run university professors tend to quit jobs because of reform

The controversial pension law that was amended in summer to meet the requirements of constitutionality has again caused protests – this time among lecturers and tutors of state-run universities.

Under the law, the requirement to make monthly contributions to the pension funds in the amount of five percent of the salary is now for only public sector employees and staffs aged under 40.

In September, several dozen young professors submitted applications to leave their jobs because of the compulsion to make additional contributions towards the pension funds. Many of them lecture at universities as their second jobs, while they have their main incomes elsewhere and because of the position at state-run schools they are obliged to make payments in both places.

By the logic of the law on funded pensions after citizens join the system they can no longer withdraw except in certain cases, like changing citizenship, etc. Hence, they will have to make the contributions from their salaries until they attain the retirement age of 63. The lecturers who want to quit their jobs at the Yerevan State University and other state-run higher educational establishments, however, are more angered by the fact that their contributions at the main jobs are often as comparable to the salaries they receive at state-run universities, which makes teaching there unprofitable for them.

Hovhannes Hovhannisyan, a 30-year-old lecturer at the Yerevan State University and the American University of Armenia, did not join the system voluntarily.

“In my opinion, this is robbery in broad daylight. It should be optional. It is humiliating that you must join it if you work in the public sector,” the candidate of historical sciences tells ArmeniaNow.

Hovhannisyan says that another professor who combined his jobs at the National Academy of Sciences and the American University of Armenia decided to leave his position at the Academy, but was told that he would still continue to be involved in the system as there is no withdrawing after joining it.

“That’s why I say that public sector employees are enslaved. And the rector tells everyone that we are not state employees and that’s why we don’t have social packages,” he says.

The law that came into effect last January and concerned all employees born after 1973 caused large-scale protests in the country after which the Constitutional Court partially granted the claim of the opposition and obliged the government and the National Assembly to amend the legislation, including its part concerning the compulsory nature of the contributions. Eventually, the amendments stipulated that only public sector workers under 40 are required to make the contributions in the form of social payments, while others will have an option to join the new pension system until July 2017 when it becomes compulsory for all.

It is remarkable that Yerevan State University Rector Aram Simonyan has expressed concern about the departure of young specialists from the higher school because of the compulsion to join the pension system and even appealed to the minister of education and science.

“My impression is that the minister is optimistic about this matter. And that’s why we have asked some people to be patient until some solution is given. Some have agreed, others hesitate as to what to do,” Simonyan told the news website, saying that he had already signed three requests for resignations from the 12 submitted.

Leaders of the YSU Trade Union Organization are also worried by the prospect of mainly young specialists quitting their jobs at the university. Recently, they addressed an open letter to Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan. They expressed concern that the withdrawal of young specialists may “significantly affect the quality of education, the efficiency of organizing the work and on the continuity of generations.”

During Thursday’s government session Prime Minister Abrahamyan instructed the finance minister to examine whether those who combine their main jobs with teaching at universities can be exempted from making the payments.