Monday, March 8, 2021

Online Debates about Immigrants in Russia Both Reflect and Promote Five Mistaken Notions, Martynov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 6 – Social media provide a window into the thinking of Russians about a wide variety of subjects, but debates on some subjects there show that Russians have fundamentally mistaken ideas about what they are discussing. Among these subjects is migration, Kirill Martynov says.

            The sharp decline in the number of migrant workers in Russia – down 39 percent over the last year – has had an unexpected consequence: it has sparked an intense debate online about their role in Russia, as Russians face rising taxi cab charges, the result of fewer drivers, and the impact of other worker shortages the departure of immigrant workers has entailed.

            Unfortunately, many of those taking part in such discussions repeat or even exaggerate mistaken notions about migrant workers and their impact on Russian life. In a new blog post, Kirill Martynov, political editor for Novaya gazeta, takes aim at these in what he calls an examination of “migrant wars” on Twitter (

            He suggests that these mistaken ideas involve three main claims, that immigrants take jobs away from Russians, that they are responsible for a rise in crime, and that they are “killing our great culture.” None of these things is true. Migrants in fact commit fewer crimes because they don’t want to be deported, and they aren’t “killing” Russian culture, whatever that means.

            But the belief that immigrant workers take jobs away from Russians remains widespread, Martynov says, even though all available evidence shows that this zero-sum view of employment is also wrong and that if anything immigrant workers both fill jobs Russians don’t want and perform services allowing Russians to get better ones.

            Having surveyed international research on the impact of immigrants on the labor market, the political editor outlines what he says are five main reasons why the widespread belief that immigrants take jobs away from Russians are simply wrong:

1.      “Those who come into the country spend money in it and it this way create new workplaces thus increasing the demand for labor and leaving pay levels unchanged.”

2.      By performing low-paying jobs, migrants slow the rate of shift to automation and thus actually protect Russians in these positions from losing them.

3.      By performing certain tasks such as childcare and housecleaning, migrants allow more higher qualified Russians the opportunity to take jobs outside the home, or even to fill jobs which require more interaction with customers than those which migrants typically fill.

4.      Migrants do not simply fill jobs Russians generally don’t want but do so in places where Russians don’t want to go, thus maintaining economic development in regions that otherwise would be much more depressed.

5.       And the presence of immigrants may even cause employers to seek out Russians for jobs because they know them and are concerned that the others may not perform as well.

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