Thursday, January 10, 2019

Net Migration to Russia Lowest Since End of Soviet Times, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 10 – During the last year, Russia attracted fewer immigrants from abroad and saw more of those already there leave than in any post-Soviet year, experts say, leading to a net decline that reflected among other things the problems of the Russian economy and failed to compensate for the natural decline of the indigenous Russian population.

            Nezavisimaya gazeta journalist Anatoly Komrakov says that migrants far earlier than Russian experts took note of the fact that the Russian economy is not as attractive as it was and shows little signs of recovering its status as a magnet in the future (

            Moreover, the continuing devaluation of the ruble makes work in Russia less attractive; and those Russian employers now have less money to hire migrants or anyone else, the journalist continues.  “As a result, the flow of migrants into the Russian Federation established a unique anti-record” last year.

                The number of migrants coming into Russia fell 42.5 percent from the first quarter of 2017 to the first quarter of 2018, and the number who left rose by 22 percent between those two periods, dramatically pushing down the totals. Experts expect that total net migration into Russia during 2018 will be 120,000, the lost since before 1991.

            As of December 1, Komrakov says, there were 9.93 million foreigners in Russia, the vast majority (84 percent) from CIS countries, primarily the Central Asian states but also Ukraine.  Immigration from the latter fell sharply from the previous years, but that alone doesn’t explain the overall pattern which shows declines in immigration from all the countries involved.

            Ukrainian and Moldovan workers are increasingly looking to move to Europe rather than Russia, Yulia Florinskaya of the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service says, while declines from the Central Asian countries reflect not only Russia’s domestic problems but improved economic conditions in most of the donor states.

            Vyacheslav Postavin, head of the 21st Century Migration Foundation, points to yet another cause: Russian immigration law became sharply more restrictive after 12 years of a relatively liberal approach. As a result, potential immigrants had to go over far higher hurdles than in the immediate past.

                He points to two other causes, both likely to last whatever happens in Russia: First, “for the young” in the CIS countries, “the Russian Federation and Russian already are not so close as they were to previous generations who had the experience of living in a single country, the USSR.” Young people now are more likely to study English and Chinese rather than Russian.

            And second, Postavin continues, “Russia has become a hostage of the birthrates in the republics of Central Asia.” Those have been falling and so there is a declining pool of young people for whom those countries have to find jobs and thus far fewer who are likely to be inclined to move abroad.

            Despite the declining numbers of migrant workers in Russia, their remittances home have again begun to rise. For the first three quarters of 2018, they sent 9.8 billion US dollars home. In 2017 for the entire year, they sent 12.9 percent but in the “pre-crisis” year of 2014, they dispatched 19 billion.

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