By Polina Nikolskaya and Darya Korsunskaya
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia is close to drawing up a draft law to raise the pension age, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Saturday, but wants to do so carefully and in a way that avoids disrupting the existing pension system or causing social tensions.
Policymakers see raising the pension age -- currently 55 for women and 60 for men -- as a way of spurring faster growth at a time when Western sanctions are a drag on the economy.
"A pretty serious study of all these questions has already been done," Medvedev told state TV channel Rossiya 1.
"... We are on the brink of starting to discuss this at a legislative level. ... it (a decision) will be taken based on different factors, it will be done carefully, and in such a way that will not unbalance the pension system or, on the other hand, create negative feelings among people."
Former finance minister Alexei Kudrin, now an unofficial adviser to President Vladimir Putin, has said Russia faces a big increase in the number of pensioners in coming years which will coincide with a shrinking workforce.
Any increase in the pension age would allow the government to cut contributions from the state budget, which could help fund pre-election promises of higher social and infrastructure spending by Putin, who starts a new term in office on May 7.
Two government sources and one source familiar with the situation told Reuters that Putin had already agreed the pension age needed to go up.
"In February, there was a meeting of government officials with the president and everyone agreed to increase the pension age. The president said not to do it before the elections," one of the sources said.
The government is now discussing how to do it and two proposals have emerged as the most realistic, two sources said.
The first, from the finance ministry, would see the pension age increased every year by one year until it reaches 65 years for both men and women.
The second, from economic adviser Kudrin, envisages increasing the retirement age for women by six months every year until it reaches 63 years, and by four months each year for men until it reaches 65 years.
A final decision is expected to be made by a new government that Putin will name after his inauguration.
(Editing by Andrew Osborn and Catherine Evans)