Staunton, May 7 – Despite what most Russians appear to believe, there is a far higher percentage of illegal immigrants among Moldovans and Ukrainians working in the Russian Federation than among Tajiks or Uzbeks, according to Vladimir Mukomel, a specialist on migration at the Moscow Institute of Sociology.
According to the data he has collected, approximately 60 percent of the Moldovans working in the Russian Federation are doing so illegally, the Academy of Sciences scholar said, but he added that he is convinced that the actual percentage of illegals among them is greater than that (rosbalt.ru/moscow/2013/05/07/1124414.html).
The reason is that Moldovans, like Ukrainians “are visually indistinguishable from Russians” and thus are not stopped by the police or noticed by Russians nearly as often. In fact, his research shows, “they have significantly fewer contacts with the police than do Russians who are visually distinguishable from the ethnic majority” such as the Kalmyks or Yakuts.
According to Mukomel, 64 percent of Moldovans working in the trade sector in Russia re doing so illegally, as are 66 percent of those working in construction. Moreover, “only 13 percent of working migrants have written contacts,” and even among those in Russia legally, 44 percent are doing so without the required contract.
The sociologist told Rosbalt’s Anna Semenets that no one knows the exact numbers of Moldovans in Russia. His best estimate is that there are approximately 500,000, of whom 60 percent are working, according to Russian officials. But the actual number of Moldovans employed is “an order of magnitude fewer.”
About half of Moldovans between 20 and 35 who come to Russia do so with their spouses and sometimes with their children. But “more than half of the labor migrants” from Moldova are widows, divorced, or single mothers, who “have come to Russia and evidently do not want to return.”
Polls conducted in Moldova show that very few people want to move to Russia or, if they go, to remain there for very long, Mukomel said, but surveys conducted in Russia found that some 45 percent want to obtain Russian citizenship and remain. Another 29 percent of those polled in Russia say they want to remain at least five years.
Many Moldovan gastarbeiters in Russia have higher or specialized secondary educations, he continued, but few work in the specialty for which they were trained. Most have to work in trade. Their average income is 26,200 rubles (880 US dollars) a month but for that they have to work on average more than 60 hours a week rather than the standard Russian average of 38.
Just how many Moldovans will come to the Russian Federation in the future depends on the economy there, the economy in Moldova and the economy in Europe. If the Russian economy contracts, fewer will come to Russia and more will look to Europe, but Russia has one advantage: it is easier for Moldovans to return home from there than from Western Europe.
Overall, Mukomel said, “about a third” of the Moldovans now in Russia are unlikely to return to their homeland. The group most likely to go back, he added, are young “circular” migrants “who cannot adapt themselves to Russian realities and find themselves a place in the Russian labor market.”