Russia: reduction of the number of labour migrants has on the economy? (Eurasianet, USA)

Stop enterprises at the time of quarantine and the closure of borders resulted in an outflow of labor migrants from Russia. As a result landowners have missed the thousands of seasonal workers; there are not enough workers in construction and utilities. To replace them is difficult: the local population not ready to work hard at low pay and lack of social guarantees.

In connection with the crisis companies cut staff or even close, rising unemployment among Russian citizens. Competition for jobs pushes the authorities for the restriction of entry for labour migrants from July 1 to come to Russia legally only foreigners, selected agencies under specific business needs.

Complexity statistics

Official data on the change in the number of labour migrants in Russia in the first half of 2020, yet. In mid-July appeared Rosstat data on migration gain in January-may 2020 — the difference between arrivals (at least nine months) and leave the country. According to the Ministry, the growth rate was decreased three times compared to the same period in 2019 (from 116 thousand to 38 thousand people). These data can indirectly testify about the reduction in the number of migrant workers.

Accurate information on how many foreigners come to Russia to work, does not exist. According to the interior Ministry, in 2019 on the migratory account in Russia rose more than 19.5 million people. Of these, 5.5 million came to work. Another 2.5 million came from “private” purpose, which also does not exclude the possibility of earnings. With the purpose of tourism and education came to a total of 4.9 million foreigners.

“The actual number of migrant workers in the country is difficult to determine, — told Alexander Shcherbakov, a Professor of the Department of labour and social policy, Institute of public administration and management (IIPAM) at Ranepa. — The official statistics on this matter many experts believe is inaccurate and significantly understated. Not taken into account, for example, a significant number of illegal migrants. Many foreigners are unable to return to their countries due to pandemic, but how many of them remained in Russia, either, as precise information on the extent of reducing their number to their workplaces”.

That many foreigners work illegally, says the head of the Department of ethno-demographic and integration processes of the Institute of demographic studies, Advisor to the head of Federal Agency on Affairs of nationalities Victoria Ledeneva. According to her, in 2019 to Russia to work officially, came about 5 million foreigners, and patents received less than 3 million. “Where walk the remaining 2 million migrants, we don’t know,” said Victoria Ledeneva in an interview with the newspaper “Moskovsky Komsomolets”.

Some experts believe that labor migrants in Russia at least two times larger than reported officially. So, the Director of the research center of migration and ethnicity Ranepa Evgeny Varshaver in an interview with “Kommersant” said that in the country to work annually about 10-11 millions of foreigners.

Farmers do not have enough hands

According to a study by the Center for agrofood policy, Institute of applied economic research, Ranepa in Russia’s agriculture employs about 500 thousand foreign citizens. They are mainly migrants from the CIS countries, China, Korea, and Vietnam.

March 18, 2020 Russia closed the entry of migrant workers. Since that time, farmers began to worry about a possible shortage of workers. For example, the Union of producers of berries and Potato Union of Russia, the Ministry of agriculture warned about the risks associated with the lack of seasonal workers from among the migrants, writes “Kommersant”. Manufacturers of berry asked the agriculture Ministry to develop a special procedure for the entry of foreign citizens to work in the farms. Such measures were not taken.

Concern was also expressed by the authorities of the Astrakhan and Volgograd regions. In the first region urged residents to go for agricultural work and the second offered to organize the summer practice of students of the agrarian Institute on the vegetable fields.

The Ministry of agriculture in April reported that seasonal work is not enough only 23 thousand people, and promised to provide labour resources for harvesting. Considering options for the replacement of migrant workers, not only students of agricultural universities, but also of prisoners. This project was developed by the Ministry of agriculture together with the Federal service of execution of punishments (FSIN Russia), but has not yet been implemented.

Meanwhile, farmers themselves do not see other ways to harvest, but to return migrants.

“Measures have to be alone — to open borders for labour force for agriculture. Our companies are almost all wealthy, but if the crop of apples will be as we plan for 2-3 thousand tons, we will never get as a private domestic growers will be able to remove about 500 tons”, — quotes the President of the Association of producers of fruits, berries and planting material of Igor Muhanin edition

The construction industry will come to a standstill without migrants

The tense situation of migrant workers in the construction industry, where, according to Rosstat, employing 6.9 million people. Another 2.4 million people working in the housing sector. According to the Ministry of construction and housing utilities of the Russian Federation, a large proportion of workers in these industries are migrants from neighboring countries — Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Their proportion can be up to 15-20 percent.

“The decrease in the number of this category of workers may result in significant risks to the sector of construction and housing given the fact that the moment to moment possibilities of substitution within the country have been exhausted”, — stated in the letter of the Ministry of construction dated March 31, 2020.

In this document the head of Department Vladimir Yakovlev argues that the industry will face a shortage of manpower. Moreover, in his opinion, for implementation of national projects in the construction sector until 2024, the construction sector of Russia will need approximately an additional 1.8 million people.

“One source — labor migration and the main hope for the potential of the CIS countries, including members of the Eurasian economic Union”, — stated in the document for his signature.

During the period of quarantine from 28 March to 13 may 2020 official construction in Russia did not work. It also led to an outflow of migrants in search of work, even illegally, left the construction site.

Has a workplace — there is a solution

By the decree of the President of the migrants “trapped in Russia”, until September 15, 2020, no need to renew the registration, and RVP, residence permit and other statuses in the Russian Federation to cancel will not. Until the end of June, the entry of foreigners to Russia was banned, from July 1, migrant workers will officially be able to enter the country only through the mediation of private employment agencies. Intended that they will select employees for specific requirements of Russian employers directly in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, according to “Rossiyskaya Gazeta”. The declared aim of the initiative is to give priority in employment to the unemployed Russian citizens, to reduce the competition for jobs.

According to the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, 2019, working in Russia, Tajik citizens sent home $ 2.5 billion, equivalent to 35 percent of GDP in the Central Asian country. The natives of Kyrgyzstan sent 2 billion dollars (30 percent of GDP). Uzbek transferred $ 4.7 billion (15 percent of GDP). The world Bank (WB) predicts a decrease in the volume of transactions from Russia to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan in 2020 by 28 percent. According to experts of the organization at least 20 percent of labor migrants in Russia will lose their jobs, and the rest significantly reduced salary.

And whether migrant workers?

In Russia, meanwhile, rising domestic unemployment. According to official data of Rosstat, in June of 2020 in Russia was 2.8 million unemployed, 3.7 times more than in June 2019. The total number of unemployed Russians was 4.6 million people, a third more than the year before.

Experts suggest that the number of unemployed is substantially above the officially registered number. In the study of service job SuperJob said that the real number of unemployed more than tripled. According to the President of SuperJob Alexei Zakharov, two-thirds of people who lost their jobs do not consist on the account in the employment center. That is, to the officially registered unemployed can safely add 5 million that are in an active search, he said.

Moreover, according to business associations “OPORA Russia”, chamber of Commerce, “Business Russia”, until August 2020 will close 1 million enterprises of small and average business. They will not withstand the crisis associated with the pandemic, write “Izvestia”. Reduced the number of jobs.

Against this background, there are opinions that the restrictions on migrants are not critical for the Russian economy. Risks arising from the decrease in the number of foreign employees can be excluded due to the development and redistribution of internal resources. But it requires effort and money.

According to Professor Ranhigs Alexander Shcherbakov, which he expressed to the correspondent the problem of labour shortage rather relative. Most commonly, it occurs under conditions of low productivity and is decided, primarily, by its increase, as well as the development of internal migration.

“This is important not only to increase labor in production, but, for example, to solve in different regions of the country the issues of providing employees with housing, including removable, — said Shcherbakov. — In the context of increased unemployment in Russia, this problem should be resolved primarily through an increase in the full employment of its citizens”.

The goal is achievable with active state promotion of payment and productivity, he said.

Meanwhile, according to many experts, the unemployed citizens of Russia will not be able to fully replace the migrant workers.

The Minister of labour of the Russian Federation Anton Kotkov believes that while the growth of unemployment in Russia is growing and the demand for personnel. The problem is “the mismatch of skills of unemployed citizens are in demand by employers competences”. “Given the current growth in the number of unemployed, of course, some regions will be able to find a replacement for the migrants in the face of Russian citizens. But such large cities as Moscow and St. Petersburg, where there remains quite a large number of open vacancies will require the influx of foreign workers. In addition, many Russians, even lost earnings, are not ready for the work often done by migrants in the fields of construction, cleaning, communal services”, — said “Kommersant” Nikita Murov, General Director of “Bronka Groups.”

Similar position is held and the General Director situated near Moscow “Lenin state Farm” Pavel Grudinin, the company which every year to pick strawberries 200 workers. “Gathering berries — hours of heavy manual work under the scorching sun, said Grudinin radio station “Business FM”. — So the locals, in Russia, in Europe, in the US it does”.

Alina Musina — the alias of a Russian journalist.