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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Fights Long Lines at Jobless Office

RIA-NovostiPutin and Rosatom head Sergei Kiriyenko, left, taking a tour of a heavy machinery plant Wednesday in Podolsk.
Registering for jobless benefits should take no longer than half an hour, and the government is ready to spend additional funds to improve service at unemployment offices, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Wednesday.

The government has made fighting unemployment a priority, setting aside 43.7 billion rubles ($1.2 billion) to co-finance efforts to promote job growth.

Health and Social Development Minister Tatyana Golikova told the Federation Council earlier in the day that the number of registered unemployed could reach 2.8 million by the end of the year, well above the ministry's earlier forecast of 2.2 million.

Visiting an unemployment office in the Moscow region town of Podolsk, Putin and Golikova were told by a former bank department head that it had taken her about a month to register for benefits and that people had been waiting at the center for two or three hours.

"That's not right. We had agreed that the waiting time in lines shouldn't be more than 30 minutes. If we need to do something to ensure people aren't waiting in long lines, it won't take that much money," Putin said, Interfax reported.

There are about 6.1 million people looking for work in Russia, Golikova said earlier in the day, though there are only 1.97 million officially registered.

Putin said the government remained committed to protecting those who have lost their jobs, noting that monthly unemployment benefits had been increased to 4,900 rubles ($136).

When told that the minimum unemployment check in France is 500 euros ($630), Putin bristled.

"The level of income and expenses are absolutely incommensurable, and the structure of expenses is different. So it's impossible to compare," he said.