Staunton, January 5 – According to the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service, the number of migrant workers in the Russian Federation fell from 10.3 million in January 2020 to 7.8 million last month, a decline of 22 percent, which has hit many industries hard (newizv.ru/news/politics/05-01-2021/prognoz-nas-zhdet-rezkoe-sokraschenie-russkogo-naseleniya).
As a result, industry lobbyists and regional governments which need tax revenue are pressing Moscow to make it easier for such people to return and fill jobs that Russians are not prepared to take. But rising unemployment among Russians is generating resistance to that and increasingly taking on an ethnic dimension.
Unemployment among Russians rose by 3.5 times last year, experts say; and not surprisingly, many Russians are increasingly opposed to allowing non-Russians to return and take jobs that they believe should go to Russians first. At the same time, some Russians are also complaining that Moscow is making it easier for Central Asians to come than for ethnic Russians to return (vitalidrobishev.livejournal.com/7728454.html).
At present, 74 percent of all immigrant workers in the Russian Federation are from three countries in Central Asia. Many of these people are prepared to work at jobs Russians won’t do for salaries Russians won’t accept. But Russians now say that corporations are using the immigrants to keep the wages and salaries of Russians lower than they should be.
And Russians are also angry about reports that the Russian foreign ministry has been slower to process requests by ethnic Russians abroad to return to Russia than it has been to take care of the Central Asians, a tilt toward worker-starved corporations and tax-starved regions that is infuriating unemployed Russians.
If these trends continue, the return of Central Asian migrant workers to Russian cities as the pandemic eases could trigger the kind of xenophobic attitudes and actions that have caused problems for Moscow in the past. Moreover, it could re-energize extremist Russian nationalist parties who have been looking for an issue to rebuild their ranks.