‘Exodus’ of Tajiks to Russia seen as relaxation of migration laws


Farrukh and his wife, Saodat, quit their jobs at a village hospital in Tajikistan’s northern Sughd province last summer and moved to Russia, taking advantage of a new government program that allows white-collar workers to to live more easily in the country and to obtain citizenship. .

The couple, both doctors in their late 20s, now work at a district hospital in Russia’s Perm region, where the family have also been offered subsidized housing and financial assistance.

At around $1,200 a month each, their salary is nearly four times what they earned in Tajikistan.

“The quality of life is also much better here: we have running water and natural gas at home, and there is no electricity rationing like in Tajikistan,” Farrukh said. “Food and utilities are cheaper here. My three cousins ​​and their families also moved to Perm last year and work for private construction companies.

Farrukh and his relatives are among more than 3 million Tajik citizens officially registered in Russia in 2021, a record.

According to Russian Interior Ministry figures, 2,439,198 Tajik nationals said “work” was the reason for entering Russia. This represents about a quarter of the total population of Tajikistan.

This is a significant increase from previous years when the number of Tajiks working in Russia was around 1.2 million. While seasonal workers make up the majority of migrants, a growing number of Tajiks are seeking permanent resettlement in Russia.

This trend is widely expected to continue on the rise, as unemployment and poverty in Tajikistan and other Central Asian countries force millions of people to seek work elsewhere.

It comes as Russia – facing a demographic crisis and labor shortages – has eased its migration and citizenship requirements, particularly for nationals of former Soviet republics.

Unemployment and poverty force millions of Tajiks to seek work elsewhere.

Botirjon Shermuhammad, a Moscow-based immigration lawyer, says that “we will see more people from Central Asia coming to Russia,” both for temporary work and permanent resettlement in the foreseeable future.

“There are anti-migrant comments and warnings from some Russian politicians, but the government understands that economic growth is impossible to achieve without migrants,” Shermuhammad said. “Russia’s population is declining and Central Asia is a major foreign source for its labor force.”

Russia’s population has shrunk by nearly a million people in 2021, the biggest peacetime decline ever. The sharp decline was also linked to a high number of deaths from COVID-19.

But Russia has faced a steady decline in its population since the dissolution of the Soviet Union three decades ago, with experts blaming low birth rates and falling life expectancy for the drop. One of President Vladimir Putin’s promises when he was re-elected in 2018 was to reverse the demographic crisis by the end of his term in 2024.

Even before the pandemic, the Ministry of Finance predicted a 4% drop in Russia’s working population by 2035.

Brain drain

In Tajikistan, the authorities often downplay the number of Tajik migrants working in Russia, estimating it at several hundred thousand.

For many Tajiks, labor migration to Russia has been a solution to many social, economic and demographic problems. The majority of rural households in Tajikistan depend almost entirely on remittances from relatives working in Russia.

With Russia offering higher salaries and a better standard of living, more Tajik doctors, teachers and ordinary workers are likely to emigrate. Many are expected to resettle permanently in Russia.

The economy has always been struggling and jobs have always been hard to come by in Tajikistan, where the population – unlike Russia – has grown rapidly over the past 30 years.

But Tajikistan is also slowly beginning to feel the downside of migration – a brain drain – as skilled specialists leave the country.

Tajikistan does not say how many doctors, teachers or other skilled workers have left the country.

On February 10, the Minister of Health declared that there was a shortage of 674 doctors in “remote areas”. But amid the 2020 pandemic, Dushanbe acknowledged the healthcare sector was stretched, with a shortage of some 6,000 doctors and nurses across the country.

The Department of Education said this month that there was a shortage of 1,124 qualified teachers, despite some 16,000 people graduating from teacher training colleges each year. This is 2,067 teachers from Tajikistan’s Khatlon province alone moved to Russia Last year.

With Russia offering higher salaries and a better standard of living, more Tajik doctors, teachers and ordinary workers are likely to emigrate. Many are expected to resettle permanently in Russia.

According to official Russian figures, 103,681 Tajik nationals obtained Russian citizenship last year. That’s a significant increase from five years ago, when around 30,000 Tajiks received Russian passports. Tajikistan allows dual Tajik-Russian citizenship.

Uzbekistan, the most populous country in Central Asia, continues to supply the largest number of workers to Russia.

In 2021, more than 4.9 million Uzbeks were registered in Russia and more than 4.5 million said they had gone to Russia to work.

More than 31,800 Uzbeks obtained Russian passports last year. Uzbekistan, a country of over 35 million people, does not allow dual citizenship.

Zarangez Navruzshoh, correspondent for RFE/RL’s Tajik service, and Umid Bobomatov, correspondent for the Uzbek service, contributed to this report.
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