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Tajik Pensions Lag Far Behind Cost of Living

Pensioners in Tajikistan are finding life increasingly tough as their benefits fail to keep pace with inflation, Firuza Karabazova reports.
More than half of this Central Asian state's population lives below the poverty line, defined by the World Bank as an income of two US dollars a day.

The average monthly wage is 40 dollars a month, a sum which is at the top end of the state pension scale. The lowest pension is 15 dollars.

The hardest hit are elderly people on their own, without children or extended family to support them. Female widowed pensioners get an extra seven dollars a month from the state.

Irina Mikhailovna falls into this category, and has nothing left over once she has bought basic food and medicines. She is among the people seen at bazaars selling odds and ends and old clothing, and she is luckier than many as her neighbours help her out by passing on things she can offer for sale.

“I find it hard to understand how single pensioners can get by on the minimum pension,” said Lali Babaeva, the author of a book on poverty in Tajikistan. “If you go down to the market and look at how prices are rocketing – and I’m talking essentials here, not luxury items – it’s clear that single pensioners cannot survive on that money unless they have adult children to help them out.”

Noting that pensions in Tajikistan are not index-linked, Babaeva says different agencies like the labour and welfare ministry and the state statistical body do not even agree on what the minimum subsistence level is. The statistical agency put it at just over 40 dollars a month.

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