Staunton, October 19 – Because of pandemic restrictions and the collapse of some sectors of the economy, the number of immigrant workers in Russia has declined by roughly 50 percent. But their absence has had a broader impact because companies are finding it difficult to attract Russians to do the often low-skilled, low-paid work immigrants did, Moscow experts say.
This has had three immediate and one longer-term consequence that policymakers need to focus on. Immediately, it has led some companies to contract operations, suspending construction until immigrants return, and thus making the recovery even more difficult than would otherwise be the case (ng.ru/economics/2020-10-19/1_7993_migrants.html).
It has forced others to boost wages, sometimes by almost 100 percent, raising the costs of any project and adding to inflation because more money is being put into the economy while production is at the same level or less. And it has forced some companies to try to mechanize their operations, a good but very expensive option.
Over the longer term, researchers say, the unwillingness of indigenous Russians to do the work immigrants used to will lead to the growth of the shadow sector with immigrants being brought in illegally and corruption spreading. That may help individual companies, but it will harm the economy and make it more difficult for any economic growth to proceed for very long.
The only way out, these experts say, is for the government to provide enough subsidies to small and mid-sized firms that they will be able to raise pay and attract Russians, thus limiting unemployment and under-employment among them, or to mechanize and make immigrant labor less critical to the country’s economy.
At present, the cash-strapped Russian government is not doing so; and consequently, the direct and indirect costs of the decline in the number of immigrant workers in Russia are increasing, the analysts cited by Nezavisimaya gazeta say.
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