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Regular version of the site

Emigration from Russia More Varied

Emigration from Russia has changed significantly over the last decade. The potential for ethnic repatriation has almost been exhausted, but other factors have become stronger in the population outflow, such as reunion with families and trips for education. Such emigration is largely determined by differences in the quality of life and policies in host countries, which welcome young, educated, qualified people with a certain level of income, said Mikhail Denisenko, Deputy Director of the HSE Institute of Demography, in his presentation at the XVI April International Academic Conference at HSE.

The structure of emigration from Russia in the 2000s differs significantly from that of the 1990s. Two periods of emigration can be marked out: 1994-2003 and 2004-2013, Mikhail Denisenko noted. Ethnic migration prevailed during the first period, while other points pulled emigrants from Russia during in the second period.

Denisenko presented a comprehensive analysis of population outflow, its structure, trends, as well as push and pull factors, in his paper ‘Emigration from Russia: trends, factors, and prospects’. The paper summarized the results of multi-year research and focuses primarily on long-term emigration, i.e., when residency status is received. The study was based on data from host countries’ national statistical institutions, the Eurostat database, and the OECD Migration Database.

New outline of emigration

Over 2.7 million people born in Russia live in non-post-Soviet countries. However, the emigration ‘math’ is not simple: there are considerable differences between Russian statistics of emigration from Russia and data from other countries. This is due to the fact that emigrants are often interested in maintaining close connections with Russia, so they don’t register officially as emigrants and their departure is not registered by Russian statistics. However, in order to obtain residency status abroad they have to present the appropriate documents. Based on these peculiarities, it makes sense to calculate emigration based on data from countries of arrival.

Such statistics clearly demonstrates emigration trends over the last 20 years. From 1994-2003, the outflow to Germany, the U.S., and Israel was significantly higher than from 2004-2013. These destinations attracted over 90% of emigrants during the first period of post-Soviet emigration. Moreover, the volumes of the flow were high (Fig. 1; the size of the scale is demonstrative: the upper margin of emigration in the left graph reaches 120,000, while in the right one – only 8,000).

The ethnic outflow decreased during the second period of emigration, which was partly due to changes in repatriation programmes. For example, in Germany, ‘requirements to determining German ethnicity, language knowledge, including by family members, were toughened, and quotas for repatriates were introduced’ the researcher explained. This policy significantly influenced emigration. Today, repatriates account for less than 10% of the total emigration outflow to Germany.

By the mid-2000s, another outflow trend clearly showed itself: outflow became considerably smaller (due, among other reasons, to exhausted potential of repatriation); however, the destinations became more varied. Spain, Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, France, and Canada received a considerable share in the emigration outflow. Finland, Switzerland, and the Scandinavian countries also attracted emigrants, although they had smaller shares.

The character of emigration also changed in the 2000s: it became more economically determined, which was related, among other things, to the difference between living standards in Russia and destination countries.

The first figure (right part) clearly demonstrates emigration peaks to Spain, Czech Republic, Austria, and Italy. However, these peaks are evidence not only of an ‘exodus’ to these countries, but also of changes in their migration laws in the 2000s. ‘Migration amnesty’ took place in various forms in these countries; people who previously had come from Russia were legalized, and hence the surge in the number of immigrants.

With regard to country specifics, Austria, for example, legalized foreigners who had businesses in the country since they had invested in its economy. In some countries, buying real estate or having a certain amount of money in a bank account in the country helped in obtaining resident status.

This means that emigration in the 2000s was promoted by the growing wealth of Russians that allowed them to settle in another country.

Taking into account the trends mentioned above, Denisenko outlined five key factors of migration, including migration policy of the countries of arrival, exhausting potential of the ethnic outflow, evolving migration networks (reunion with families and friends), growing revenue of Russians, as well as individual push and pull factors.

Immigration ‘tricks’

The speaker evaluated the potential outflow with the use of two key criteria of emigration, ‘country of birth’ and ‘country of citizenship’. Their application varies by country. For example, in the U.S., the concept of ‘country of birth’ is more used, and in Germany and Austria the concept of ‘country of citizenship’ is more widespread. ‘One way or another, the number of people from Russia by both criteria is growing’, Denisenko emphasized.

Denisenko emphasized the specifics of this potential by country. For example, Germany prohibits dual citizenship. This explains the difference – more than 2.6 times – between the data on Russian emigrants according to German statistics, and the Russian Federation Consulate Accounting data on Russians in Germany (216,000 vs. 568,800 in 2013-2014). The difference between the two indicators exceeds 350,000. ‘These are the Russian Germans who keep Russian citizenship and don’t want to inform the German government about it’, the speaker explained.

Among Russians living in the U.S., a certain share (almost 118,000) also keeps Russian citizenship. In Israel, there are almost 137,000 such Russian citizens.

There is a media myth on a massive ‘exodus’ of rich Russians to Great Britain. The real figures are much more modest: only several tens of thousands of people. In fact, as a result of the 2011 census in Great Britain, Russia was not even in the list of 70 countries providing the most immigrants in the country.

In total, as already stated above, over 2.7 million people from Russia are living in post-Soviet countries. With respect to people from the former Soviet Union, this figure would be at least twice as high: in Germany, thanks to immigrants from Kazakhstan, and in the U.S. and Canada due to those who moved from Ukraine.

U.S. reunites families

Denisenko studied the key channels of departure. Table 3 shows that in Russians’ immigration to the U.S. the share of such categories as ‘other family members’ has more than doubled (from almost 23% to about 56%; it includes brothers, sisters, nephews, grandparents and other indirect relatives). This is an evidence of evolving migration networks that unite family and friends. Over the last 20 years, this channel of emigration has clearly grown. ‘These migration connections are essentially a guarantee that a person will have some kind of income and a job’, Denisenko commented.

At the same time, the ‘refugees’ category, due to obvious reasons, decreased virtually to a minimum: from 56.2% in 1995 to 8.6% in 2013.

The share of such channels as ‘job’ turned out to be much lower for Russians (15.5% in 2013) than, for example, for immigrants from Germany (32%) and especially India (more than a half – 52%).

Concerning temporary migration in the U.S., education is the main channel for it today. The share of this channel has grown 2.2 times: from almost 14% in 1995 to almost 31% in 2013.

At the same time, the share of exchange programmes has fallen by a factor of 1.7 over the same period: from about 46% to almost 27% (the portion of Russians who usually stayed in the country to study or work after such programmes).

The category of ‘work’ has lost its position only insignificantly since the mid-1990s: from 21% to 19%.

People choose the EU for study

In immigration to European countries, the role of such channels as family (from 27% in 2008 to 31% in 2013) and education (from 18% in 2008 to 23% in 2013) has also grown. At the same time, in the ‘job’ category the share of Russians falls significantly behind Ukrainians, whose share is three times higher. The net number of migrants from Ukraine to Europe is also much higher: 235,500 in 2013 (as compared to 68,400 Russians).

Emigration rejuvenated

The paper also presents a socio-demographic portrait of migrants. The outflow has become considerably younger as compared with the outflow of the repatriation period when many older people left the country. Such ‘rejuvenation’ is related to emigration channels (such as education), to the requirements of the host country, and to the demands of the market, including the market related to marriage.

Emigration is feminine. The data on Italy re the most expressive: in the structure of Russian immigrants, over 80% are women aged 15 to 34. Some of them leave to get married. Some of the women are employed as social workers.

However, the share of women is more than a half in other countries as well.

In general, the criterion of an immigrant’s education and qualification is becoming essential for the accepting countries. For example, nearly three quarters of migrants in Canada have a tertiary education, as do almost 70% in Great Britain. Western countries now welcome mostly ‘young, educated, qualified and wealthy migrants’, Denisenko concluded.


Author: Olga Sobolevskaya, April 29, 2015