Staunton, November 4 – Few subjects are so dominated by stereotypes and incorrect ones at that as the nature of migrant workers in the Russian Federation. At a conference last week at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, sociologist Vladimir Mukomel and demographer Mikhail Denisenko sought to dispel many of the incorrect but widespread notions.
According to Yekaterina Ivashchenko of the Fergana News agency (fergananews.com/articles/9620 their key points based on research conducted in 2011 and this year included:
· 58 percent of Russia’s gastarbeiters come from Central Asia.
· 11 percent of all migrants from abroad are ethnic Russians. Most of these are from Ukraine and Moldova but they are to be found in the flows of all CIS countries.
· Most gastarbeiters are young males but an increasing number are women, especially those who are divorced or are widows.
· 84 percent of migrant workers have jobs. Nine percent more are seeking work, and four percent aren’t working or seeking work.
· Migrants are increasingly shifting from the lowest paid and hardest work to service sectors, leaving the former ever more often to Russian citizens. Nonetheless, gastarbeiters still dominate some of the jobs at the bottom of the income pyramid.
· Compared to Russians, gastarbeiters typically work for small enterprises rather than large ones: 40 percent of employed migrant workers work for companies with fewer than 10 employees, and another 35 percent work for firms with 10 to 50 workers.
· Slightly under a third of all gastarbeiters work in the shadow sector, almost exactly the same as the share of indigenous Russians. Those most willing to work in the shadow sector are people from Moldova and Azerbaijan.
· But even those who are employed legally are generally forced to work more hours a week – 59 on average now -- than Russians do and than Russian law allows.
· Migrants from Belarus are paid the most and send the most money home.
· The most recently arrived gastarbeiters know Russian significantly less well than those who came in earlier waves. They are not going to learn it either, declaring that they have no more than two hours a week available to study a language. Their children, however, are learning Russian.
· Any assimilation occurs primarily among the children of immigrants not among the immigrant workers themselves.
· Most gastarbeiters do not plan to remain forever in Russia although far more than say they would like to do that want to acquire Russian passports so that they can move back and forth more easily.
· Russian attitudes toward gastarbeiters are improving, the result of the fact that an ever higher share of migrants are from Ukraine and Belarus and are thus more culturally similar, the departure of many Central Asians because of the economic crisis, and a shift in media coverage of immigration issues.