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January 2013, Volume 20, Number 1

Russia: Migrants

Since 2005, Russian nationalists have used the November 4th holiday to protest the presence of foreigners in Russia and to call for an end to immigration from Central Asian nations such as Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Several thousand demonstrators marched near the Kremlin on November 4, 2012, the first time that they were allowed to march in the inner city, chanting "Russia for Russians!"

The Federal Migration Service estimated that 9.1 million foreigners arrived in Russia to work in 2011, including two million from Uzbekistan, a million from Tajikistan, and more than 500,000 from Kyrgyzstan. The number of Muslims in Russia has risen from 14 million in 2002 to 20 million in 2012 due to migration from the Muslim Caucasus nations and births to Muslims in Russian provinces.

If current trends continue, Muslims are expected to be almost 20 percent of Russia's 142 million people in 2030. There are an estimated two million Muslims among the 12 million residents of Moscow.

Beginning December 1, 2012, newly arrived foreign workers employed in most service jobs must pass a Russian language test. The Federal Migration Service expects 140,000 foreigners to take it in the first year, at a cost of 5,000 rubles ($160).

A net $81 billion left Russia in 2011, and net outflows were $58 billion in the first nine months of 2012. Some of these outflows reflect remittances to migrant workers from the ex-USSR countries.

Russia has one of the world's highest rates of alcoholism and alcohol-related illness, and in January 2013 the government banned the sale of beer from kiosks and limited the sale of beer in stores after 11pm. Taxes on vodka, the drink of choice have been raised, but halting the sale of beer from the kiosks that surround subway stations is expected to have a greater impact, since the kiosks accounted for a third of beer sales.

Gallup surveys of 19,000 residents of ex-USSR countries that send migrants mostly to Russia, including 1,300 who migrated abroad to work in the previous decade, found that 60 percent of migrants who returned from work abroad improved their lives at home, usually because of a higher income. (www.gallup.com/poll/159572/labor-migration-doesn-always-pay-off-fsu-migrants.aspx) The surveys, conducted between 2010 and 2012, found that about 30 percent of returned migrants found a better job than they had before they left, and another 30 percent found jobs after return that used skills they learned abroad. Almost half reported that their qualifications improved as a result of work abroad.