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Pendulum Migration Lowers the Quality of Life in the Regions

Every day, about one million residents of Moscow’s surrounding regions commute to work in the city. Remote districts are losing prospective labour resources, and the contrast between the quality of life in Moscow’s centre and its outskirts is growing increasingly more noticeable. The HSE online journal Demoscope Weekly analysed the commuting practices of Moscow region residents

Non-capital Invisible Workers

‘Every fourth adult working resident of the Moscow region is a pendulum migrant’, declared Julia Shitova and Jury Shitov, Professor and Associate Professor, respectively, of the Department of Economics at the Dubna International University for Nature, Society, and Man. Their article ‘Pendulum Migration in the Moscow Region’ was published by the HSE Institute of Demography in the latest issue of the journal Demoscope.

Commuters are a common phenomenon whenever a city morphs from a small point into an agglomeration; it expands its territory and brings other cities and towns into its orbit of influence. Meanwhile, the shuttling of commuters plays some structural role; it helps to strengthen the connection between the centre and the periphery.

At the same time the outflow of workers aged 25-40 causes the periphery to lose its autonomy and turn into an appendage of the centre. And, the problem of shadow wages is becoming more acute.

It is difficult to enumerate pendulum migrants, as many of them try to hide their status, but the researchers managed to ascertain that the everyday passenger flow commuting from the region to the centre is made up of approximately 0.9-1.2 million people.

The Laws of the ‘Pendulum’

If a city is growing fast, an excessive population density stands in contradiction with a further increase in production. Territorial opportunities for enlarging production are limited, transportation is overloaded, and quality of life decreases because of ‘overcrowding, high prices, and air and noise pollution’, the researchers noted. As a result, the city starts growing extensively and transforms into an agglomeration. Such enlarged cities effectively concentrate manufacturing facilities and attract pendulum migrants, while the regions lose manpower. Serious gaps in the quality of life between the centre and the periphery lead to a territorial misbalance of the economy. The authors identified a series of laws governing the regular capital-bound movements of those who live in the periphery:

  • The inflow of pendulum migrants to Moscow has always exceeded the outflow;
  • People aged 22-30 make the longest trips (in both distance and duration);
  • From districts with a low quality of life, the flow of pendulum migrants is always greater;
  • About 3% of Moscow region residents who work in the capital move to Moscow;
  • The declared income of pendulum migrants is always smaller than the actual income.

‘Dead Souls’ Can Be Counted

A group of pendulum migrants can be selected by analysing the structural balance of the population’s employment. The researchers explain that if we take the working population of a region and subtract all the groups recorded in statistics, such as workers of large and small companies, people engaged in small businesses, the unemployed, people working in an informal sector, and self-employed individuals, the so-called ‘dead souls’ remain. The researchers suppose that the majority of them are pendulum migrants. The proportion of pendulum migrants decreases as one moves further away from the agglomeration’s centre. The expense of commuting is the reason for this phenomenon.

Women Commute the Same but Earn Less

The majority of pendulum migrants are aged 25-40. Most Moscow region residents aged 40-60 work in their respective towns.

The researchers state that the age profiles of commuting men and women differ slightly. On average, pendulum migrants, both men and women, cover 50 km and spend an hour on a one-way trip, but women earn almost 20% less than men. The researchers also added that high-qualified workers, who earn high wages, on average commute more often and cover longer distances.

Pendulum Migration Has Drained the Periphery

The integral index of the quality of life in a region is calculated on the basis of 25 indexes of socio-economic status, such as finance and investment, industry, agriculture and services, population incomes, demography, ecology, social services, and the utilities sector. The quality of life in Moscow regions decreases as one moves further away from the centre. It is also obvious that the outflow of workers aged 25-40 causes problems on the local labour market. The map of pendulum migrant flows is closely connected with special patterns of wages, the real estate market, and transportation. Salaries are concentrated in the towns and districts near Moscow, and flow away from the periphery. The workers in the regions situated up to 50 km away from Moscow are in a more advantageous position than those who live in more remote regions.

The researchers concluded that the wage gap between the centre and the periphery (the excess income of pendulum migrants) in combination with the benefits of living in a remote district instead of the centre can be compared to the commuting expenses of pendulum migrants. This balance proves that a dynamic equilibrium exists in the labour market in terms of labour mobility.

 

Author: Olga Sobolevskaya, October 30, 2013