Ruble & Exodus from Russia of the Stans' Migrants

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 2/24/2015 01:30:00 AM
Only in Moscow is Tajikistan so far away.
Here's another one of those interesting side stories to Russia's ongoing economies woes. In the past, workers--both documented and undocumented--used to flock there from the Central Asian republics or the "Stans" in search of work. You should be familiar with these: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The factors which drove this migration are also well-known: they used to be part of the USSR after all, wages in Russia were comparatively higher, and employment opportunities back home were fewer. However, a new AFP article implies that workers from the Stans are fleeing Russia as the combined weight of Western sanctions, diminished energy prices, higher inflation and the loss of work opportunities for migrant workers are keeping them home in greater numbers:
"Almost 30 percent of the workers who left to spend New Year's as usual with their families in Uzbekistan or Tajikistan have not come back," said the head of a street cleaning company, who asked not to be named. The deputy governor of Saint Petersburg, Igor Albin, said recently that the city had lost half the migrant workers who do this type of manual labour.

Migrants from the ex-Soviet states in Central Asia used to flock to Russia to work as street sweepers, gypsy cab drivers or restaurant cleaners. Even the low wages seemed better than conditions back home. But many are returning to their countries as the Russian economy is choked by crippling Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis and plunging oil prices. That has caused the ruble to lose half its value against the dollar, hitting migrants' paychecks hard.
It is not only economics but also politics keeping away more Stan residents away as migration officials have become stricter with migrant workers. (I would attribute this to natives becoming more hostile to migrants when they themselves cannot find jobs at home):
Almost three million people from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan live legally in Russia, while many more are there below the radar of the authorities. They are mostly unskilled workers who are paid off the books. The money they send to their families back home accounts for up to half their countries' gross domestic product. Galloping inflation in Russia is also eating into how much Central Asian workers can send home, and once the weaker rubles are converted into local currency their remittances are now worth much less.

She said that out of the current average monthly wage of 30,000 rubles ($460), migrant workers are no longer able to send more than $200 home each month. "It's not worth living a very harsh life in Saint Petersburg for such a meagre sum."

Russia has also increased the burden of red tape and fees, recently introducing a compulsory test on Russian language and history as well as new permits from the migration service. 
Tajik authorities concur that the numbers of those leaving from Russia are declining, too:
In Tajikistan, the poorest ex-Soviet country, the authorities confirmed that many migrant workers have returned from Russia. An immigration service official, Anvar Boboyev, told AFP that the number of Tajiks now leaving to work in Russia is half that of the same period last year. In January 2014, more than 60,000 Tajiks travelled to Russia, while last month it was only around 30,000, he said.

The Tajik government has vowed to create 200,000 jobs this year but experts say it will be far too little to meet the demands of returning migrants. Between 700,000 and one million Tajiks are thought to work in Russia.
Ultimately, that's probably setting the lower bound to how much migration from the Stans will slow: as bad as things are in Russia, they may be worse in the various Stans.