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Russia wants to facilitate the return of migrants in order to support its economy

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a decline in the foreign workforce in many areas of Russia's economy. As a result, the Ministry of Construction and Housing announced a new entry system for migrants. This decision could also benefit some countries in Central Asia.

The following article originally appeared on the French version of Novastan.

The coronavirus pandemic shows its side effects once again. In Russia's construction industry in particular, but also in other sectors, there were layoffs of migrant workers who worked there, after which they left the Russian Federation and returned to their home countries. In the case of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, where migrants remit almost a third of the gross domestic product (GDP) to their families remaining in the country, this has had particularly serious consequences.

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However, this situation could change. On January 18, the Russian foreign medium Sputnik reported that Vladimir Putin had set himself the goal of eliminating the labor shortage caused by emigration. As the Russian news portal Fergana News, which specializes in Central Asia, reported, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said that housing construction and public services were particularly affected “Muscovites are not ready to work in such jobs”.

Number of migrants halved

According to the International Organization for Migration, there were around 12 million migrants in Russia at the beginning of 2020. A year later, in January 2021, it was only 6.3 million, writes the Russian newspaper The Moscow Times. The Russian news agency TASS quoted Deputy Prime Minister Marat Chusnullin as saying that almost 1.5 million foreign workers were missing. The entry restrictions into the Russian Federation have prevented many migrants from returning to work.

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The anthropologist Sergei Abashin suspects in an article published on the website Liberal.ru that the number of Kazakh citizens working in Russia has decreased by almost 33 percent and that of Kyrgyz nationals by 20 percent. The total number of citizens living in Russia from countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) fell from 8.5 million to 6.2 million people.

As a result, Russia's Minister of Construction and Housing Irek Fajsullin announced on January 22nd that it would set up a commission in coordination with the business community to recruit foreign workers. Russian companies only need to submit their application to the ministry. However, two construction companies have already anticipated this process: PIK-Industry and TekhStroy want to recruit around 14,000 Uzbek people, reported the Uzbek news portal Podrobno.uz on January 15th. Bricklayers, welders, electricians and foundries are particularly popular.

An economic and political challenge

In Tajikistan, according to a report by Asia-Plus, a partnership with the Asian Development Bank is to be established "Improving professional skills and job opportunities" enable. The deputy Tajik finance minister said, according to Sputnik, that 34.65 million US dollars (28.5 million euros) will be invested in the training of migrant workers.

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Labor migration is of great importance for both Russia and the Central Asian countries themselves. According to the French Ministry of Finance, 1.2 million Tajik nationals lived in Russia in 2019, which is 13 percent of the total Tajik population. The income transfers amounted to almost 2.6 billion US dollars (2.14 billion euros) and thus 33 percent of the Tajik GDP in 2019. The Tajiks working in Russia are therefore vital for their homeland. However, as Sputnik reports, according to the Tajik statistical authority, a 67 percent decrease in transfers was recorded in 2020.

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Remittances from Russia also play an important role for Uzbekistan. The American Institute for War and Peace Reporting came to the conclusion that 2 million Uzbek migrant workers send around 4 billion US dollars (3.29 billion euros) home every year.

Mathis Puyo, editor for Novastan

Translated from the French by Robin Roth

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