Migrant Workers’ Exit from Russia Creates Problems for Their Home

Migrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus who have been living and working in the Russian Federation are returning home in ever increasing numbers, a trend that may ease ethnic tensions in Russia but one that is creating increasingly serious problems for many of their countries of origin.

Among the most serious are declines in transfer payments, which in many cases have formed a significant portion of the GDP of these countries, increases in unemployment, and a rise in both crime – many of the Gastarbeiters were in Russia illegally and thus may be more willing to operate outside the law – and nationalism, given Russian xenophobia.

And all of these trends are likely to undermine the ability of the often fragile “labor exporting” regimes in these countries to maintain order, especially if the former “importers” of their workers continue to suffer from the effects of the world economic crisis and impose additional restrictions on the importation of labor.

If the consequences of the presence of Gastarbeiters in Russia have attracted a great deal of political commentary and media attention, the impact of their departure – either temporary for the holidays or more permanently because of economic problems – on their homelands have received much less.

That is going to have to change if the region is to remain stable, Pertsev argues, but as he does not say, it is entirely possible that the former “importers” of labor from Central Asia and the Caucasus may now be the ones dragging their feet, given that the current economic and ethnic situation in their countries would make that approach popular at home.

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