Monday, 24 September 2012

Migrant labour in Russia- Needs versus wants

The biggest proportion of migrant workers will be needed for building and road repairs says the Labour Ministry.

Russia's labour ministry has published a report on the numbers of migrant workers Russia needs in 2013.

It's apparently around 1,750,000, and that's how many work permits will be issued. So how do you come up with a figure like that?

First of all this million and three quarters includes foreign workers currently in Russia. Around 412,000 new invites have been issued. The ministry's estimate is based on proposals from regional Russian governments on how many workers they think they need. They've also looked at the labour market, demographics, the principal of priority of national labour and the effectiveness of the foreign labour force in 2011.

They estimate Russia will need a foreign labour force 2.4% the size of Russia's total labour force next year, roughly the same as was needed this year. The ministry notes that's not a huge number and won't put Russians out of work.

The biggest proportion is builders and road workers at nearly 600,000. The ministry also says Russia will need more than 350,000 unskilled workers and over 100,000 foundry and factory workers. However more skilled workers are also needed, notes the ministry. Demand for skilled workers makes up 80% of the total demand for foreign workers by many employers.

In addition, changes in urban planning policies mean that construction companies will try and hire more highly skilled workers and more Russian workers.

However it's hard to know if these figures are realistic or of much use. Russia estimates that over 5 million migrants are working in Russia illegally, though figures are hard to establish. It's easy though to see pressure building against migrant workers, especially illegal workers. Russia has announced a clampdown and the Russian parliament is considering a new law to make arriving applicants take Russian language, history and legal tests. This isn't for citizenship, just a work permit.

This has lead to numerous cases of exploitation. Just last week 11 vietnamese workers died in a fire in at a sewing factory in the Moscow region where they were locked in to prevent them leaving and only brought food once a day. Hundreds of workers from central Asia are discovered each year who have had their documents taken from them and are subsequently forced to work for a pittance in inhumane conditions.

The large numbers of migrant workers employed in construction and manual labour in Russia, mostly from former Soviet republics in central Asia, have also caused a rise in tensions with ethnic Russians. There have been widespread reports of increases in crime from migrant communities and of fights and even murders between central Asians and Russians.

With an ageing infrastructure, major building projects and a population that isn't going to see any appreciable growth for the time being Russia needs workers. But trying to protect both the needs of the Russian economy and population and of the workers themselves is looking like a labour of Hercules.

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