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Migrants follow investment

The parts of Russia which migrant workers from the CIS find most attractive are changing. The ‘map’ of migration flows depends on which way the investments are going. But at the same time, the general picture is unchanged: we don’t yet have an efficient system for gathering the foreign labour force we need. In an article in the HSE journal ‘Demoscope Weekly’, Olga Chudinovskikh, Mikhail Denisenko and Nikita Mkrtchyan explained their research findings

The way migrant workers are recruited remains inconsistent with the needs of the Russian labour market. This can be explained to some extent by the practice of using quotas, which don’t take into account the conditions of the market or the professional characteristics of the migrants, say Olga Chudinovskikh, Director of the HSE Centre for Migration Policy at the Institute for Managing Social Processes, Mikhail Denisenko, Deputy Director of the HSE Institute of Demography and Nikita Mkrtchyan, Head Research Fellow at the HSE Institute of Demography.  As a result, employers have no guarantee that they can hire foreign workers when they need them, nor that they will be qualified for the job. They, correspondingly, take no interest in preparing migrant workers for the job in hand, even though on average their qualifications are low. The researchers made a map of migration based on Russian employment statistics and suggested ways to rationalise it.

Migration channels have been reallocated

In 2012 the Russian migration authorities issued about 3 million work permits to foreigners from 141 countries.

Compared to 2011 the flow of temporary migrant workers had grown; 1.4 million foreigners received work permits (15% more than in 2011), and about 1.3 million people from countries that don’t require a visa for Russia purchased licences to work in domestic jobs. That is almost 50% more than in 2011.

Figures over 11 months show that there is a reallocation going on between channels of migrant workers. The number of work permits given by quota has been reduced by 3.3 % compared to a similar period in 2012. At the same time, licences are becoming more popular. And noticeably more foreigners were given permits to work as skilled and highly skilled specialists.

As far as illegal migration goes, there is no sign of it decreasing. The researchers reckon that every year 3-5 million foreign citizens are working in Russia without proper papers.  

The largest group of migrants come from Uzbekistan

In 2011-2012 about 90% of foreigners with work permits were from CIS countries, with Uzbekistan in first place. In 2012 42% of all permits went to about 590,000 Uzbeks. About 218,000 Tajiks were given permits, about 151,000 Ukrainians and 92,000 Kirgyz.   

The top 10 leaders in migration include China receiving 97,000 work permits, North Korea with 37,000 and Turkey with 26,000.

Trends show that the number of migrants from Uzbekistan has grown since 2011 by almost a quarter. The flow from Ukraine has increased by 18%, and by 10% from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova. The largest increase in migration from abroad came from Turkey (43%), Thailand (40%) and Serbia (36%). The largest drop in migration workers or ex-pats is from Britain (35%), USA (33%), Germany (27%) and France (18%).

Among blue collar workers there were directors and acrobats

Qualified specialists get work permits regardless of quotas. This category brings together foreigners with a fixed profession. They are hired according to a list confirmed by the Ministry for Employment. The researchers remarked that they were often surprised by the list of jobs, as they were not in any way relevant to the real needs of the Russian economy and workers in particular professions. Out of 59 positions, noted in 2013, 23 were various level top managers. 20 were connected with work in the theatre and circus (for touring artistes).

Russia needs a different approach to determine categories of workers who could get access more easily to the Russian labour market, say the researchers. The list of countries which provide qualified specialists includes those same states what produce Russia’s main flow of migrant workers.

Half of ex-pats are bosses

The main criteria for being categorised as a highly-qualified specialist are achievements in a particular field and a high salary. For the year 2012 Russia’s Federal Migration Service issued permits to almost 11800 white collar workers. That’s 9% more than for 2011. The majority of migrants in this category are from countries which have a visa-only entry system. The countries who got the highest number of permits were China (1604), Turkey (1038), France (853), Germany (822) and Britain (679).

Licences are cheap and convenient

This channel to stay in Russia legally is becoming more widely used. 1,279 million licences were sold in 2012 – 50% more than in 2011. Over 11 months in 2013 the Federal Migration Service sold 9%, more patents than in the whole of 2012.

The reason these licences are so popular is that they cost 1000 roubles per month but it is easy to have them extended. Besides, the law does not require the licence holder to prove that they have been working nor does it limit their right to stay in Russia. So as long as they pay the monthly rate, they don’t have to have a regular job and can stay for an indefinite period. Figures from a survey by the Levada Centre in 2011 showed that 62% of migrants with licences had not worked for an actual party.

Migrants are on average 7 years younger than the local population

The age of migrants is not to be overlooked when devising a migration policy. Age, family circumstances, education and professional training are all closely linked. Statistics show that the average employed Russian in 2012 was 40.8 - 7 years older than the average migrant worker. The youngest migrants were from Kyrgyzstan (30), Tajikistan and Vietnam (31), Afghanistan and Uzbekistan (32). In contrast, foreigners from western countries are on average slightly older than Russians.

Professional and gender niches

The general pattern here determines the balance of Central Asian citizens who are usually unskilled labourers. In 2012 they made up more than 30% of the group. 20% worked as skilled workers operating machinery and as mechanics.

The variation in the pattern of professions over countries is huge. Most people coming from the West and from non-CIS Asian countries are highly trained and educated professionals. More than 60% of Germans and almost 50% of French, British, US, Indian, South Korean ex-pats were heads of companies and departments. Turkish nationals and those from former-Yugoslavia were employed in construction and North Koreans in the mining industry.

Figures for 2009 – 2012 and up to August 2013 show a degree of change – an increase in numbers working in service industries and a drop in those in other areas – farming, forestry and transport.

The high percentage of jobs which require physical work means that the typical migrant worker is male. But female employees are sought after in certain niche areas. For example, women make up 76% of migrants from Thailand (they often work in massage parlours) and 65% of migrants from Philippines who work in domestic jobs.

Migrants target areas with growing economies

The concentration of migrants in economically developed regions and areas where raw material industries dominate is logical – there they find a wider variety of jobs and plenty of employment in construction work. In 2007 the five regions with the highest number of foreign workers were Moscow, the Moscow Oblast, St Petersburg, Leningrad Oblast, Krasnodar Krai (or Territory) and Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous District. The level of concentration of migrants officially drawn to these areas has not gone below 50%. In 2012 almost a third of work permits were issued in Moscow and Moscow Oblast and 18.4% in St Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast. Krasnodar Krai took third place because of preparations for the Sochi Winter Olympics with 4.6% of permits issued. From 2.6% upwards of migrants go into the areas where the raw materials industries are – the Khanty-Mansiisk and Yamal Nenetsk Autonomous districts.

The regions vary hugely in how migrant workers correspond to the numbers of local people in employment. In 2007 Moscow had the highest correlation of 11.5%, followed by Primorsky Krai, Krasnoyarski Krai, Sakhalinsky Oblast and Nenetsky Autonomous District.

In 2012 all this changed – Primosky Krai took first place because of the APEC summit, preparations for which brought investment. Next came Yamalo-Nenetsk, St Petersburg, Leningrad Oblast and Nenetsk Autonomous District. Moscow with Moscow Oblast dropped to 10th and 12th places.

The regional pattern of attracting foreign workers doesn’t change randomly. It correlates to the movement of investment which heats up the demand for labour. So in 2012 Primorsky and Krasnodarski Krai, and Kaluzhskaya Oblast became popular destinations for migrant workers. The pattern is also affected by the policy of quotas, which explains Moscow’s lower rating in 2012. However, the researchers point out that the real number of migrant workers on the capital’s labour markets didn’t actually fall, simply a section of it disappeared into the shadow economy.


Author: Olga Sobolevskaya, January 23, 2014