Do migrants take our jobs?

“Such Cases” and the Civic Assistance Committee continue to dismantle the myths about migrants. Doctor of Economics Irina Ivakhnyuk tells us why foreign workers do not take jobs away from Russians, but, on the contrary, save the labor market.

“Such Cases” and the Civic Assistance Committee continue to dismantle the myths about migrants. Doctor of Economics Irina Ivakhnyuk tells us why foreign workers do not take jobs away from Russians, but, on the contrary, save the labor market.

Behind this common stereotype is an artificially simplified understanding of the situation on the labor market and that, if migrants were “removed”, there will be great employment opportunities for Russians. In fact, this is not just a misconception. In many cases the situation is exactly the opposite.

First, the attraction of foreign labor, and unemployment among the local population, are two parallel existing phenomena. In 2017, the number of unemployed in Russia was officially estimated at four million people, of which 0.8 million were registered with employment services as job seekers. At the same time, in Moscow and St. Petersburg unemployment rates are the lowest in the country (1.4% and 1.7%, respectively), and these are regions Russia is concentrated. At the same time, the officially declared need of employers for employees (the number of vacancies declared by employers in employment services) is constantly high. In 2017, it averaged 1.5 million. The fact that these vacancies are not filled indicates that unemployment in Russia is structural: citizens’ occupations and qualifications do not fully meet the needs of the Russian economy. This raises the question of the need to reform the system of training and retraining of national personnel.

Secondly, so-called migrant niches have emerged on the Russian labor market: cleaning offices and territories, utility work in construction and trade, auxiliary work in private households, and care for the elderly. According to surveys of migrants, two thirds work exclusively among foreign workers and only a third in mixed work collectives, where there are both foreign and local workers. Rather, there is a competition for jobs among the migrants themselves: Azerbaijanis squeeze Chinese out of the markets, Kyrgyz push Uzbeks into housing and trade, Ukrainian construction workers compete with Moldovans.

Russian citizens are not employed in such sectors, considering them to be heavy, “dirty”, and not prestigious. Even in the context of economic crises, local residents who have lost their jobs are in no hurry to take up jobs in migrant niches. The economic crisis of 2009–2010 showed that Russian citizens preferred temporary unemployment and living on welfare to lowering their professional and social status.

Thirdly, attracting migrants is the only possible resource for performing temporary work, for example, in agriculture or construction. Thus, the construction of facilities for the 2018 World Cup demanded a multiple increase in the number of workers in the construction sector in a number of cities. Russian potential employees are not prepared to work at a temporary job at facilities remote from home. Migrants are ready and they come to Russia for that.

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For over 30 years, Committee of Civic Assistance has been helping migrants who find themselves in difficult situations. At the end of 2011, human rights defenders launched the Hate Crimes project where the organization provides free legal and humanitarian assistance to victims of violent hate crimes.