In 1990 and 1991, Estonia began taking over more of the administration of its social welfare system from the central Soviet authorities. The government instituted its own system of payments, for example, to compensate the population for the removal of state subsidies and an increase in food prices. In April 1991, the republic passed its own pension law, the implementation of which was upset by inflation, although later the situation improved with the introduction of a new currency. Still, with some 307,000 pensioners and a rapidly aging population, pensions accounted for a large share of the country's social fund (see Recent Economic Developments, this ch.). In response, the government began gradually raising the retirement age from fifty-five for women and sixty for men to sixty for women and sixty-five for men. In January 1993, more than 1,000 angry retirees staged a protest in front of Toompea Castle to demand higher pensions. At EKR260 a month, pensions were so low that many people complained that they could barely pay their rent and utility bills.
Other welfare benefits provided by the state included financial support for invalids, low-income families, and families having three or more children. The state also provided institu-tional care for elderly people and orphans.
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