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April 2012 Volume 19 Number 2
Eastern, Northern Europe
Russia. The quota for legal foreign workers was 1.7 million in 2011, but most estimates are that over five million workers from ex-USSR countries were employed in Russia, most without permits. The government is proposing to spend more money on migration controls, including beefing up border and interior controls.<< back
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who was elected President in March 2012 for a six-year term, promised to crack down on unauthorized migrants by barring those detected from Russia for 10 years. Putin, who said that only 40 percent of the 10 million foreigners in Russia were authorized, proposed that Russians who hire unauthorized migrants face criminal sanctions.
An April 2012 fire killed 17 Tajik migrant workers who were living in a dorm complex in the southern part of Moscow that sold construction equipment. The owner was warned in February 2012 of the need to install fire alarms and extinguishers, but they were apparently not installed when the fire broke out.
Putin was appointed Prime Minister in 1999 by Boris Yeltsin and won over 70 percent of the vote when he first ran for president in 2004. Since 1999, Russia's economy has expanded by an average of over seven percent a year, creating a middle-class that encompasses 40 percent of Moscow residents and a quarter of residents in other cities.
Sweden. Sweden's center-right coalition government elected in 2006 made it easier for employers to hire non-EU foreign workers in 2008. Before the policy change, employers had to be certified by the Employment Service, which consults closely with unions, as needing foreign workers. After the change, the ES lost its voice in whether foreign workers were needed.
Under the new employer-driven labor migration policy, Swedish employers advertise vacant jobs that pay prevailing wages for at least 10 days and, if they cannot find local workers, they receive permission to recruit and employ migrant workers for up to two years. Work permits can be renewed and, after four years in Sweden, a foreign worker can apply for a permanent residence permit.
Since the policy change, the number of foreign workers admitted has almost tripled to over 14,000 a year. There are no distinctions by skill, that is, employers can request permission for both high- and low-skilled workers. The three occupations that accounted for over half of admissions in 2010 were agriculture, IT and hospitality. Over half of those admitted were from Thailand, India and China.
Romania. Many Romanians continue to leave, seeking higher wages and more opportunities in Italy, Spain and other EU member states. Average monthly wages are less than $500 a month, the lowest in the EU-27. Remittances were $3.4 billion in 2011, two percent of GDP.
Romania faces challenges financing its pension system. There are about the same number of elderly receiving pensions, five million, as employed in formal sector jobs and paying taxes. With young people leaving villages, many of the elderly in depopulated villages depend on government pensions to survive.