Russia is hit by the decline in the number of migrant workers in Central Asia

After Russia closed its borders to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Russia is working to solve the problem of labor shortages, thereby drastically reducing the traditional cross-border immigration from Central Asia.

Both parties rely on the actions of the people. For Russia, immigrants are a cheap source of labor for jobs that locals refuse to do.For Central Asian countries, immigrants money transfer Contributing a large part of their GDP, their departure helps reduce the domestic unemployment rate.

But as of the beginning of April, there were 5.5 million foreigners in Russia, which is 42% less than the Russian Presidential Institute of Economics and Public Administration (Ranepa). Construction and agriculture have been particularly affected.

“In the past year, we have very few immigrants left. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last month that we urgently need these immigrants to implement our ambitious plan. .

“We have to build more things than we do now. We need to build more things. But this requires hands-on. Their numbers have decreased due to the pandemic,” he said.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin estimates that there is a shortage of 1.5 to 2 million migrant workers in the construction industry alone.

“The wages of construction workers have increased by 50% due to the following reasons: [labour] Shortage, and doubled in some places. [But] It is difficult to find people even with double the money. “He told the local media. “We believe that this is one of the key factors hindering the overall construction development. ”

Russian Deputy Minister of Agriculture Dzhambulat Hautov said earlier this year that due to the lack of 38,000 migrant workers who usually work seasonally, agriculture is also at risk of having to suspend work. He called on Moscow to open the border for them.

Hotov said that in southern regions such as Volgograd and Astrakhan, foreigners make up 60% of the peak-season labor force, adding that locals lack the necessary skills and refuse to go out to work even with higher salaries.

The Ministry of Agriculture plans to spend 184 million reais ($2.5 million) to subsidize farmers’ supplementary recruitment costs. Despite the need for more workers, Moscow has recently stepped up its rhetoric about immigration.

In December of last year, President Putin extended the extension of his immigration application in Russia by three months, but this interruption will end in mid-June.

Last month, Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Gorovoy told about 1 million unregistered immigrants living in Russia that they must come out at that time or they risk being deported. He also said that Russia can also close its borders with citizens who disobey the country.

Analysts say that this is a power of Moscow aimed at exerting influence on the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. Ranepa said that about 85% of Russia’s immigrants came from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Irina Ivakhnyuk, a member of the Global Migration Policy Association, said: “There is no doubt that Russia has used the CIS as a soft power in its labor migration policy.”

“On the one hand, it allows it to adopt a paternalistic attitude towards the republics of the former Soviet Union. On the other hand, it may expel labor immigrants in the event of a conflict, because it understands that the opportunity to work and make money in Russia is in ensuring that countries in the region Social stability.” she said.

Uzbekistan is the most populous country in Central Asia, with a population of close to 35 million, and is one of the largest sources of Russian migrant workers. According to data from the Ministry of Labor of Uzbekistan, more than 1 million Uzbek citizens lived in Russia last year-but this number has fallen by 25% year-on-year.

After certain flights between Russia and Uzbekistan were resumed in April, the ministry expects the number to increase again in the coming months. For Tashkent, this will not be too early. Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev estimated last year that Uzbekistan’s population is growing rapidly and there is a shortage of 200,000 jobs every year, so unless people find work abroad, the country will face widespread unemployment .

The government encourages labor migration, but it tries to provide more education and job opportunities to its citizens in Europe, Turkey and Asia to offset the political risks of continuing to rely on Russian jobs.

Olga Gulina, founder of the German Institute for Migration Policy, said: “It is wrong to think that immigrants from Central Asia will continue to be purely towards Russia.” “It is also making progress in the European Union. The proportion is small, but 20 Did not exist years ago.”

The  billion line chart shows that Russian remittance outflows have declined in recent years

Since 2014, Russia’s economic difficulties and geopolitical tensions have led to Western sanctions and the devaluation of the ruble, which has made it less attractive to foreign workers.

According to Lanepa researcher Nikita Mkrtchan, the number of immigrants from post-Soviet republics such as the Baltic States, Moldova and Ukraine has dropped sharply in recent years, making Russia heavily dependent on Central Asia.

In the future, “we can count on [limited] He said: “The number of immigrants has increased, while the range of countries that provide them with immigrants has shrunk.”

However, although the role of foreign workers in the Russian labor market is waning, there are few signs that locals are willing to fill this gap.

“The experience of previous economic crises has shown that the decline in the number of foreign workers does not lead to a symmetrical increase in local employees,” Ivanuyuk said.

“Russians usually do not need a workplace occupied by foreigners. Even in times of crisis, unemployed Russian citizens are more willing to wait for the passing of difficult times and rely on social payments or savings instead of lowering their social status by agreeing to clean up the streets. Or become a manual worker.”

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