Russia’s attractiveness to migrant workers is dwindling.
The flow of migrants into Russia has fallen by 70% over the first week of January when compared to the same period last year, reports The Moscow Times.
This isn’t completely unexpected because migrant workers are facing two major problems: the ruble’s plunge and increased costs associated with finding work.
With the ruble’s fall against the US dollar, migrant workers’ wages are now worth less than they used to in their own national currencies.
The head of the Tajik Migrants Workers, Karmot Sharipov, highlighted the currency issue back in December. He said that Tajik workers in Russia have high-interest rate loans in dollars back home, and now that the ruble was weaker, workers needed to find work elsewhere to pay off loans.
Additionally, it’s getting more and more expensive for migrant workers to find jobs.
Starting on January 1, migrants workers have to take a mandatory exam about Russian culture, history, and language that costs 30,000 rubles. Additionally, work permits have more than tripled in price from 1,200 to 4,000 according to The Moscow Times.
Until recently, Russia has seen troves of foreign workers moving into the country. In fact, the country saw the second-largest number of international migrants in 2013 (behind only the US.) Most come from Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine, according to data from Rosstat.
Many migrant workers have been moving to Russia in order to look for opportunities. Since the country has been experiencing a major brain drain in recent years, increasingly better opportunities have been opening up across the board.
Interestingly, on January 2 Vladimir Putin issued a decree enabling foreign nationals (if they speak Russian and have no criminal record) to serve in the Russian military.
Russia has large military bases in Tajikistan and Armenia, and a military presence in other parts of the former Soviet Union (including Moldova, and Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia.)
“A young Tajik man speaking to RFE/RL in Dushanbe said paid service in the Russian Army was a preferable alternative to working in Russia as a labour migrant, as tens of thousands of Central Asians do each year,” reported the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. However, others said they would only serve in their own national army.
Mohammad Amin Majumder, the head of Russia’s Federation of Migrants, asked Putin to allow labour migrants to serve in the army back in April 2014, saying that some 100,000 migrants were ready “to defend Russia’s interests anywhere in the world.”