Employers Not Interested in Migrant Workers' Experience and Education
In Russia, the demand for migrant workers is highest in economically
developed and resource-extracting regions, in areas with low population
density, and in construction and industrial companies. Employers prefer to hire
low-skilled migrants with no education beyond secondary school and limited work
experience of less than a year, since these workers are much cheaper than
locals. These are some of the findings from a study by Elena Vakulenko, Assiant
Professor at the Department of Applied Economics, HSE Faculty of Economic
Sciences, and HSE student Roman Leukhin.
Due to the demographic crisis and a shortage of
blue-collar workers in the country, Russian companies need labour migrants.
While Russian colleges and universities train numerous economists, lawyers and
psychologists who often end up working in other jobs such as retail, one-third
of the country's industrial companies report shortages of blue-collar workers.
Many Russians choose not to do blue-collar jobs, perceiving them as low-status
occupations. People would rather be employed in low-ranking office jobs than
work as drivers or cooks, regardless of the pay.
According to experts, no amount of effort to mobilize
the local workforce can fill more than 50% of the need caused by the
demographic crisis and the decline in the country's working population – at
least, before 2030. Thus, Russia will still need migrant workers and a
well-designed migration policy based on an assessment of Russian firms' actual
need for foreign workers and taking into account the specific characteristics
of regional labour markets.
Assistant Professor at the Department of Applied Economics, HSE Faculty of
Economic Sciences, and HSE student Leukhin attempted to determine the
actual demand for foreign workers in Russia, to what extent different
industries, companies and regions require foreign workforce, what are employer
preferences for migrant workers and how much they are prepared to pay migrants.
The researchers published their findings in the paper 'Study of the Demand for Foreign
Workforce in Russian Regions Using Applications for Quotas'.
The study was based on data from the Russian Federal
Service for Labour and Employment and the Federal State Statistics Service
(Rosstat), including 1.5 million people, and from the Ruslana database of
Russian firms. For a closer look at firms which use migrants, the researchers
combined the 2011 data from Ruslana with the 2012 data from employer
applications for migrant quotas.
Vakulenko and Leukhin admit, however, that the
accuracy of their findings is limited, since between 5 and 7 million migrants, according
to various estimates, work in Russia illegally. "While the data we use for
the analysis do not provide an accurate estimate of the demand for migrant
labor, they still give us an indication of the demand structure, influencing factors,
and average wages paid to migrants," Vakulenko and Leukhin explain.
Migrants Attracted by the Russian North
The study suggests that the demand for migrant workers
is higher in economically developed and resource-extracting regions and in regions
with low population density. Thus, the leading regions in attracting foreign
workers include the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District (the ratio of quota applications
to the regional population stood at 11.1% in 2012), followed by the Nenets
Autonomous District (8.6%), the Chukotka Autonomous District (8.1%), the Jewish
Autonomous Region (7.2%), and the Sakhalin Region (7.1%). In Moscow, the ratio
of quota applications to the number of people employed stood at 3.1%; in the
Moscow Region it was 3.9%, and in St. Petersburg it was slightly higher at
According to Vakulenko and Leukhin, migrants are particularly
in demand where the local workforce is scarce.
The construction and manufacturing industries were
found to have the highest demand for migrants; almost half (45.8%) of all
migrant quota applications were in construction, 13.5% in manufacturing, and
10.6% in the wholesale and retail trade.
There were very few quota applications in education,
healthcare and finance.
Most foreign workers are employed in low-paid,
low-status jobs. Larger companies often request unskilled workers with no
education beyond secondary school and limited work experience of one year or
less; small and medium-sized businesses have a greater demand for skilled
workers. According to Vakulenko and Leukhin, migrants in Russia make up for the
shortage of local workers in low-skilled occupations.
Thus, 42,3% of quota applications fell under the
category of 'skilled workers of large and small industrial enterprises, arts
and crafts, construction, transport, communications, geology and exploration of
mineral resources', 25% of applications required 'unskilled workers', and 12.6%
concerned 'machinery operators and assembly fitters'.
All other factors being equal, Russian businesses are
more interested in internal rather than external migrants, according to the study’s
authors. Employing Russians migrating from other regions is easier and cheaper,
as employers can avoid the red tape of applying for permits to use foreign
workers. Companies hire foreigners only when the perceived benefits outweigh
the costs and prefer to recruit skilled and well-paid staff from among internal
Migrants are paid an average monthly wage of 12,000
rubles – about half the Russian regional average, but this number does not take
into account education, qualification, industry and other factors. The highest
wages of more than 30,000 rubles are offered to migrants employed in finance,
mining, and education, and the lowest wages of some 8,000 rubles are paid in
the agricultural sector.
Quotas Not Based on Economic Need
and Leukhin conclude that the current system of planning migrant quotas and distributing
migrants across the country is not informed by regional macroeconomic
indicators and therefore it often fails to address the actual needs of the
October 29, 2015