MOSCOW: More than 168,000 Russians have signed an online petition calling for Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's resignation after he suggested a low-paid lecturer get a different job.
His comments -- widely seen as out of touch and uncaring -- unleashed a torrent of bile in the press and on social media, with a petition on Change.org calling for his ouster garnering 168,000 signatures by Friday afternoon.
"The cabinet should be led by a person who is competent, educated and cares about the country," wrote the petition's author, Alexander Li.
"We are seeing the opposite right now."
The lower house of parliament is obliged to debate any petition that gets 100,000 signatures.
At a youth education forum on Tuesday, Medvedev was asked by a university lecturer from the impoverished Dagestan region why teachers receive only around 15,000 rubles ($230) per month, while police are significantly better paid.
"There's no need to compare," Medvedev said. "The issue is what you choose in life.
Teaching, he said, "is a vocation. If you want to earn money, there are a bunch of great places where you can do that quicker and better in business. And you didn't go into business."
Official statistics show the average monthly salary in Russia is around 37,000 rubles (507 euros/$566). Teachers make an average 32,000 rubles per month but the figure varies greatly depending on the region.
In the Dagestan region, teachers earn a monthly average of 18,000 rubles, Kommersant daily reported.
Hang in there
"The prime minister's impressions are completely understandable," said a wry editorial in tabloid Moskovsky Komsomolets.
"We all know very well of government officials who successfully manage to combine their main job with business, including big business."
Novaya Gazeta lashed out at the premier over his remarks.
"Cynism cannot be at the foundation of the state's domestic policy. That usually ends badly for the state and the bureaucrats," it said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the petition.
In May, Medvedev -- who served as president from 2008 to 2012, between current President Vladimir Putin's terms -- once again sparked public ire after telling a group of pensioners: "There's no money, but hang in there."
The phrase has since gone viral.
Russia's energy-reliant economy is reeling from the fall in oil prices and Western sanctions over Moscow's meddling in Ukraine.