Friday, October 5, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Russia Needs More Skilled Immigrants Because 1990s Generation is So Small, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 5 – The Russian generation born after the demise of the USSR is so small that Russia will need to attract more highly skilled personnel from abroad over the next decade and not just unskilled laborers as has been largely the case over the last decade, Moscow employment experts say.

            That will spark competition not only within Russia but also between it and its neighbors, a competition in which the migrants Moscow wants to attract will have comparable skills and salary expectations to their Russian colleagues, according to Gleb Lebedev, research director at Moscow’s HeadHunter Firm (

            But that is only one of the changes the entrance of the new Russian generation will face and produce writes Vladislav Kuzmichev of the news agency.  They will  confront a situation in which the Russian economy has lost more than eight million jobs over the last six years and one in which immigrants are already sending home 10 billion US dollars a year.

            The careers of these new workforce entrants, Vladislav Zhukovsky, an analyst at Rikom-Trust, adds, will thus depend critically on their training and choice of specialization. Employment in most sectors is down, “and only in the system of government administration, financial speculation and trade has there been a growth in new work places.”

                Between 2002 and 2011, the Russian GDP grew 51.7 percent, while the value added by the financial sector grew 371.5 percent, agriculture only 16.9 percent and the processing industry 34.6 percent.  All this, Zhukovsky says, “demonstrate the failure of the ideas of modernization and the development of the scientific-technical potential” of the country.

            “With the exception of a number of specialities,” he adds, “the new generation of graduates born between 1990 and 2000 may repeat the fate of their predecessors.” But perhaps even more than the latter, they will have to adapt to “the realities of [Russia’s] ‘pipeline economy,’” which needs only 25 to 30 million workers, not the 80 million currently there.

             But because that “pipeline economy’” needs more skilled than unskilled workers, Lebedev suggests,  the generation born in the 1990s will have some advantages – greater computer literacy, knowledge of foreign languages, and a desire to succeed quickly – but other disadvantages given their number if they lag in those skills relative to potential immigrants.

            Most of the ethnic conflicts in Russian cities over the last 20 years have arisen because of the influx of often unskilled workers from Central Asia and the Caucasus.  But the small size of the generation of new Russian entrants to the workforce could spark a very different kind of ethnic conflict, one not among workers but among skilled professionals.
            Such a new pattern of ethnic conflict almost certainly would have three consequences, each of which might be far more difficult for Moscow to deal with than the so-called “everyday” clashes now.  First, it could trigger more ethno-nationalism among educated Russian elites, prompting Russian leaders to play the nationalist card even more than they do at present.

            Second, it could exacerbate relations between Moscow and its neighbors. Just as service in the Soviet and Russian military did not integrate people of different ethnic groups as many expected but rather triggered greater ethnic hostility, so too highly skilled immigrants might quickly return home with a very different message that Moscow would like.  

            And third, this pattern could mean that the often leaderless non-Russian immigrant workers of today could come to see the educated immigrants as their allies against ethnic Russian hostility, a combination that could lead to more intense ethnic and class conflicts in Russian cities in the future.

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