There are Millions of Them…

The government and the employers are interested in growth of labour migrants

Recently, the Russian government seems to be too satisfied with its activity. Even Prime Minister Kasyanov publicly speaks about his team successes. This self-satisfaction could be understandable in case Russian living standard was equal to that one in Germany or in France. Though, when the State Committee on Statistics publishes the number of Russian who live under poverty line (meaning Russian poverty line, which is much lower than the European one) one at once understands the situation is far to unclouded. I feel a bit uncomfortable thinking about it: Russian prices are almost equal to the European ones, while real incomes of the population do not reach even the level of the USSR collapse time. The situation cannot look satisfactory, if even official statistic witness the most of Russian live without normal conditions to feed their families and to grow up new healthy generation. The only conclusion I can make: Russian people and the Russian government live in completely different states. While this is Russian population who feed its government and pays for its activity from its holed pocket. So, for whose sake does the government act?

At the yesterday’s government sitting, Mikhail Kasyanov noticed how important is was to control the labour market in the country and showed obvious skill in this field. According to him, within last years, Russia succeeded in decreasing the unemployment level. So, in 1999, the number of the unemployed made 13 percent of Russian economically active population, while now this figure makes only 8 percent.

Though, this is a usual phenomenon: it is not thanks to the government, that the number of officially registered jobless people has been reduced. The reason is that after the 1998 crisis, when Russian businessmen were uneasy about their pockets, there was a kind of dead space in Russian labour market. Both legal and shady business hurriedly reduced its activity, transmitted its liquid assets (gold, currency, real estate) and hid itself. So people who were implicated in so-called shady sector, now could not earn money here, where there was no more money circulation. The manpower immediately went to labour exchanges and state employment centres. When shady labour markets started to recommence their activity, hundreds of thousands of officially jobless started to earn on the side again. And statistic started to grow better. The secret appears simple.

Moreover, a person who once was dismissed, usually does not address to state labour exchanges: the whole system seems to be aimed for this. This is the reason, why Russian Labour Ministry gives different figures as for unemployment in the country.

Mikhail Kasyanov certainly knows it. Though every politicians avoid saying openly the “hard truth.” This is the essence of politics. It is good at least that the Prime Minister pays attention to the necessity to control the labour market. This issue will be discussed at the next government sitting, in a week.

Though, the government approach to the issue looks strange. A key factor of influence upon labour market are new principles of migration policy, the Prime Minister states. The more affected are south regions of Russia, where the unemployment level is the highest. Kasyanov also said the regions complained abut the policy of professional staff preparation not corresponding with the tendency of economy and industry development.

About 40 percent of university graduates cannot find a job according to their specialty, while in some industries, there is an obvious lack of staff. This not odd. The youth wants to acquire a profession promising a solid living standard. While the number of well-paid jobs is limited. So, possessors of foreign universities’ diplomas have more chances to be employed. Moreover, there is a kind of fashion in Russian corporations to hire foreign managers.

While foreigners working in Russia is a real trouble for the country. Though, the government hopes for optimization of the labour market namely with labour migration. The gastarbeiters already influence Russian labour market and its pricing. Most of the foreigners are citizens of the former Soviet Union. Though, not only. But the question is mainly about the Ukrainians, Moldavians, Azerbaijanians, and Tajiks, who are promised to be forcedly returned to their motherland. At the same time, there are millions of illegal workers, who are ready to any work in Russia, for any payment: to build houses for $ 100 per month, to work in passport offices without even basic Russian language knowledge, to be oil industry workers, or doctors in district hospitals, or street cleaners. Most of Russians simply refuse to work for such payment. Though, employers are not concerned with this fact, as there are illegal foreigners, who are ready to everything. They want to “catch on” to take here their relatives. While Russian citizens drink vodka, engineers and teachers sell Abkhaz tangerines and cheap goods of Chinese production in markets. Is the government not concerned with this?

It is not a secret, that gastarbeiters live in well-organized communities in Russia and cooperate with corrupted Russian officials who protect them. It is also well known that these ethnic communities are linked to ethnic criminal groups. Russian Internal Ministry has to admit that most of crimes are committed by guest criminals, foreign citizens. However, these “guests” are no more guests at all, thanks to small functionaries connivance, while their children all the more will be “Russians.” They can live 10-15 people in one room. They come to Russia and buy flats at too high prices in the houses that are not built yet, borrowing money form their community treasury. Though, all these costs are worth it. For every gastarbeiter is implicated in the shady business of their relatives. They are ready to work for only 2,000 rubles (approximately $ 60.00) per month, for they live not from this.

Russian government certainly knows it. Though, Russian employers are deeply interested in illegal labour, for they are not responsible for these workers and they do not make almost any social payments to the state. Moreover, if all the gastarbeiters suddenly disappear, this could cause a more serious crisis than that one of 1998. Many industries would stop for a long time. While this would influence the figures, so much beloved by Mikhail Kasyanov, and there would be nothing for what the government could be complimented.

It seems to be logical to create more appropriate conditions for Russian workers and to leave for the foreigners really bad jobs.

Of course, the authority does not fully neglect the fact of illegal workers invasion of Russia, for this increases the threat of terrorist acts in the country. However the government efforts have a middle-of-the-road character.

For example, Russian labour minister Alexnadr Pochinok said yesterday the terms of migration cards’ issuing would be prolonged for foreigners working in Russia. Earlier, this process was planned to be finished by February 15, while still not enough migration cards have been issued (employers are not interested in registered gastarbeiters).

Alexandr Pochinok is not a novic in politics. He explained Russian authorities did not want to infringe upon the foreigner rights (while to infringe upon the rights of Russian citizens seems to be a norm for Russian authority), they only want to make employers to pay necessary taxes. Though, it does not matter: legalized and registered foreign workers still will deprive Russian citizens of jobs. Unfortunately, no administrative measures are foreseen against the businessmen who employ foreigners without migration cards. Though, there are special economical measures. If the above-mentioned fact is found out, the employer must pay all the necessary taxes and penalty fee for the untimely payment. According to Alexandr Pochinok, employers are interested in registration of their workers, for otherwise, they are threatened with bankruptcy. Though, the labour minister should certainly know that everything can be “arranged” in Russia. So, so-called “effective” economical measures are not so effective at all.

Today, the government does not know the exact number of gastarbeiters working in Russia. According to Alexandr Pochinok, it makes about 2.2 million people. Though, at the moment, the government intends to simplify the procedure of foreign workers “legalization.” The question is about Byelorussians and citizens of Euroasian Economical Community countries. Therefore, Russian labour market still will be filled off by foreigners.

Dmitry Slobodyanyuk

Translated by Vera Solovieva

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Author`s name Olga Savka