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February 9, 2012
Living or Surviving /Digital story/
photo image from video
Alvard Mkrtchyan (from left)

After waiting in the queue for two hours in one of the Gyumri post offices, Alvard Mkrtchyan, 70, finally gets her monthly pension. Alvard’s pension, which is 30,000 AMD (US$75), is the only source of money for her 6-member family: her ill son, daughter-in-law and three teenage grandchildren.

“My son is not capable of working; my daughter-in-law is taking care of her husband” – says Alvard Mkrtchyan with tears in her eyes.

She has a work experience of 35 years as a cleaner at a local school.

“The pension is hardly enough to pay for the utilities, flour, potatoes and oil, not even talking about clothes and other basic needs. We are not living, we are surviving.”

According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, there are about 320,000 retired pensioners in Armenia. Starting from January, 2012, the Government raised the pensions by 10%. Thus the average pension rounds to 28,000-30,000 AMD (about US$70).

The Prime Minister of Armenia, Tigran Sargsyan stressed in his speech during the government session in December, that the increase in prices is fully compensated by the raise in the retirement pensions.

However, according to the National Statistical Service of Armenia, the overall increase in food prices during 2011 reached 11%. And the minimum consumer basket is 42,000 AMD (US$110) from which the minimum food basket is 24,000 AMD (US$61).

“The raise in the retirement pensions was a great step, but it was not enough to cover the increase in food prices. Pensioners are struggling to make ends meet,” says “Araks Center” Charity NGO Representative Nina Khachatryan, who works with elderly people in Gyumri.

According to pensioner Alvard Mkrtchyan, the utility bills for the winter months are usually around 26,000 AMD (US$66).

“I would be very happy if someone could tell me how to feed my 6-member family for the whole month on 4,000 AMD (about US$10) which remains after paying for utilities,” says Alvard. “When I got the pension for the previous month and returned home, my grandchildren ran up to me and asked if I bought a candy bar for them. Hardly keeping my tears, I told them that no money is left after paying all the bills.”

Article by Nina Khachatryan, Edmond Ghulyan, Marine Aghasyan, Hasmik Ghalechyan and Astghik Mirzabekyan

This article was one of the assignments at the Youth in the 21st Century: Debating and Producing Media Workshop organized by Open Society Foundations-Armenia, Open Society Foundations Youth Program and IDEA (International Debate Education Association) from Jan 26 to Feb 6, 2012 at Aghveran. The authors were participants at the workshop.


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