Monday, August 1, 2016

Rising Unemployment Putting Russians on the Move in Search for Work

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 1 – In the 1990s, many Russians fled from cities and regions where industrial production had collapsed into the megalopolises in the search for work adding to the problems of those cities. That trend had slowed slightly in the first decade of this century, but it has now resumed with a vengeance and threatens to intensify even further in the coming months.

            According to a report in today’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” “up to 20 million Russians” are now looking for work, with many prepared to move in order to get it. The paper’s Anatoly Komrakov cites the findings of W-City Community Research that those moving from one region to another could rise 50 percent this year over last (

            Russia’s labor ministry says that only 954,800 Russians are now out of work, putting the share of unemployed at 1.2 percent. At the same time, the ministry says that there are now 1,400,000 positions being advertised to be fulfilled. Those numbers suggest that there are fewer unemployed than jobs available, although there are regional and skills imbalances.

            But using the methodology of the International Labor Organization, Rosstat says that as of June 4.2 million Russians were “actively seeking work,” a number which constitutes 5.4 percent of the working age population.

            There are enormous differences in the level of unemployment across the country, Komrakov says. In Moscow and St. Petersburg, the figures are 1.8 and 1.6 percent respectively, but in Chechnya, the figure is 16.4 percent, in Tuva 19.1 percent, and in Ingushetia, 30.9 percent (For figures in other regions, see the ranking at

            These various official numbers are at variance with the assessments by independent research centers.  W-City Community Research says that “at a minimum,” one Russian in four is now looking for work – some 20 million people.  And it points out that there were 20 percent more applicants for vacancies in June 2016 than a year earlier.

            According to Timofey Surovtsev of, “the number of domestic labor migrants has been growing sharply” this year. In 2015, he says, approximately 5.5 million Russians were seeking work beyond the borders of their home region. This year, he suggests, that figure is accelerating and may grow by 50 percent this year – to one in every 18 Russians.

            According to Rosstat, every other Russian working outside his home region is in Moscow. Surovtsev says that as of June they number “about 250,000.”  Other experts put the figure even higher. This all means, Komrakov says, that Moscow has been transformed “from a magnet for domestic labor migrants into a super-magnet.”

            After the two capitals, the two most popular destinations for those seeking work are Crimea and Krasnodar kray, according to the Center for the Study of Pension Reforms. It noted that 20 percent of those it had surveyed recently said they were ready to move to Crimea or Krasnodar kray in order to get work.

            Ivan Kuznetsov of points out that in comparison with many other countries, domestic labor mobility in Russia remains relatively low because “very few people … are prepared to go to other cities for work,” even if there are real advantages to doing so. 

            Natalya Zubarevich of the Independent Institute for Social Policy lists as magnets for internal labor migrants Moscow, St. Petersburg and then the petroleum-producing regions of the north.  But she says that the level of regional mobility is much higher than many think. “There are cities,” she says, “where up to a third of the population works in other regions.”

            The flow of domestic labor migrants has consequences both for the regions to which they go and for the regions from which they come. In the first, they increase pressure on the social infrastructure of the cities and regions; in the second, they highlight the center’s neglect of their own industries.  Under the right circumstances, both these things can have a political impact.

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