«It's not a choice, it's a necessity»

Irina Tarasova-Roksvaag has been teaching in Russia for 23 years.

Northern Russian women may retire already at 50, but for some this is pure theory.


Russians have by far the lowest retirement age in the Barents Region, and also the lowest pensions. According to statistics published by Patchwork Barents the annual average pension in Finnmark, Norway, was 35,303 USD, and in Murmansk Oblast, Russia, 4,874 USD in 2012. The regional statistics also show a major gap in the average retirement age, a seventeen-year difference. 

Women in the Russian North may retire already at age 50, and northern men at 55. In the rest of Russia, the normal retirement age is 55 for women and 60 for men. In comparison, the retirement age in neighboring country Norway is 67. However, the public sector, and partly the private sector, allows pension on special conditions from age 62.

Russia also has a system that grants pedagogical pensions to teachers after working for 25 years.

Cross-border marriage and retirement
Transnational marriages, of course, result in crossing from one social security system to another.

After graduation from The Pedagogical Institute in Kostroma (Russia), at age 23, Irina Tarasova-Roksvaag (48) spent 23 years teaching Russian children English and German, most of these years in Nikel in Murmansk Oblast, before relocating to her husband’s country, Norway.

The teacher is quite sure she will end up getting only a minimum pension from Russia.

The minimum monthly pension in Russia varies from region to region. In 2015 the amount is 9,046 rubles (165 USD) in Moscow, in St. Petersburg 6,621 rubles (121 USD) and in Murmansk 8,972 rubles (162 USD).

And these low figures, of course, is the reason why so many Russians choose to work after passing retirement age?

«It`s not a choice, it`s a necessity», Irina comments and explains that her apartment in Nikel costs her 6,000 rubles every month, which would leave her with only 3,000 rubles.

«And how much food and other necessities can you buy for 3,000 rubles? Of course, almost nothing. If you work longer and earn more, the pension gets better. But I have a friend who has been teaching for 30 years, and her monthly pension is still only 15,000 rubles (271 USD)»,

Tarasova-Roksvaag underlines that Russia probably will increase the retirement age quite soon. The children of the economically hard 1990s now start working.

«The 1990s were, as we all know, extremely difficult years in Russia economically. The financial situation was so hard that most families could only have one child, underlines Irina and refers to quotes from Valentina Matvienko, speaker of the federation Council. In, she states that Russian people should prepare themselves to work for more years. Among the former Soviet Republics, only Belarus and Ukraine have kept the low pension age.

«We are not happy to hear this, but it’s necessary», Irina says.

Now, working in a Norwegian kindergarten in Sør-Varanger municipality, Irina Tarasova-Roksvaag hopes to work until the age of 62.

«After that, it’s enough. Even if I don’t work for two extra years - and get the full Russian pension - I am sure my choice is the right one. I am so happy with my work, and in Norway the salary is, of course, much, much better. The working hours are shorter and generally this is a better area to live in. I have two children in Russia that are now grown up, and I am pleased to be able to help them. This summer, my daughter will marry and I am happy to be in a situation where I can help her with the wedding», Irina smiles.

This story is published in cooperation with Patchwork Barents.