Russia is facing a mass exodus of labor migrants: economist Maslennikov assessed the consequences

Russia is facing a mass exodus of labor migrants: economist Maslennikov assessed the consequences

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“Russians can replace newcomers only to a very small extent”

The life of migrant workers in Russia will never be the same. After the terrorist attack in Crocus, these people immediately came under triple threat – the Ministry of Labor of the Russian Federation, the police and the population. Some report harassment at the everyday level and, panicking, flee to their homeland. Deputy Minister of Labor of Tajikistan Shakhnoza Nodiri regarded this as the beginning of an outflow of visitors from Russia. But the question is: won’t the process result in a mass exodus of foreign labor amounting to 10 million people? And what will be the consequences for the domestic economy?

A large number of calls are received from migrant workers complaining about threats from Russians. The representative office of the Ministry of Labor of Tajikistan on migration issues is also receiving insults, Nodiri said. At the same time, massive law enforcement raids began to identify fictitious registrations of migrants. Management companies ask neighbors of rental apartments to anonymously report persons who may be registered illegally. Certificates of knowledge of the Russian language, which must be presented when applying for a labor patent, also came under scrutiny.

The Ministry of Labor of the Russian Federation, for its part, has developed a bill tightening the stay of foreigners in Russia. In particular, the authorities are going to limit the term of concluding employment contracts with migrants to two years – under the conditions of working with one employer. The document also contains a clause according to which the targeted recruitment of migrants will be handled by a public law company specially created for these purposes. In fact, it plays the role of a personnel center for different sectors. We discussed the current situation, as well as the associated risks for the economy, with Nikita Maslennikov, a leading expert at the Center for Political Technologies.

“Unfortunately, migrant phobia is growing in the country, in the wake of the latest tragic events,” states MK’s interlocutor. – We are talking, rather, about mass everyday sentiments, and not about the actions of the police. Accordingly, the outflow, which has so far been reported only in Tajikistan, may well take place. By summer, when construction work intensifies in Russia, some of these people may return. But then employers will have to pay them extra: foreigners are unlikely to agree to the previous conditions, and this will most likely happen by circumventing the law, using gray schemes. At the same time, control by law enforcement agencies will be tightened.

At the same time, the labor market will become somewhat cleaner in the second half of the year. But will the authorities be able to solve the problem globally – to stabilize the migration flow and bring the quality of foreign labor to a new level? It is extremely important that the government takes a number of measures proposed by the Ministry of Labor for this purpose. In particular, to create a state operator that would hire, control the living and working conditions of migrants, their professional training, and take into account their wishes. This will allow us to understand exactly which workers, how many, and in which local locations we are missing. Currently, the recruitment process is largely spontaneous. The problem requires a quick solution, otherwise the labor shortage will hit both construction sites and the housing and communal services sector. House areas will remain uncleaned, and breakdowns in buildings will become more frequent.

– To what extent can native Russians replace newcomers?

– Very insignificant. Although the rating agency ACRA estimates the internal reserves of the Russian labor market at 7.5 million people, these are mainly either pensioners, or participants in gray schemes, or those who are ready to work only remotely. And at construction sites and in housing and communal services, a constant physical presence is required. So the personnel shortage will grow like a snowball. Business can only get out of the situation by increasing wages, which, in turn, will spur inflation. The only true main path is to increase labor productivity in construction and radically modernize equipment in housing and communal services, this is investment and reducing the need for labor. Moreover, there will be no quick results. Internal Russian decisions will not help either. Let’s say that migrant couriers can be partially replaced by our teenagers and students. But this is clearly a palliative measure.

– Is it possible to seriously consider exotic options, for example, attracting workers from North Korea and African countries?

– First, they need to be taught the Russian language, the basic knowledge of which is possessed by the same Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Kyrgyz. For the latter, this is a familiar cultural space – thanks to radio, television, books. It will be immeasurably more difficult for a person from Kenya to adapt to Russian realities than a migrant from neighboring countries. Problems of this kind, associated not only with the language barrier, are fraught with outbreaks of deviant, antisocial, and criminal behavior. Ultimately, the risks may outweigh the benefits.

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