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Russia is increasingly interested in immigrants coming to the country
From 2006, the number of economically active Russians will start declining sharply and by 2050 might decrease by 45% compared with 2000. An influx of immigrants might compensate for demographic and economic losses. Russia has not yet used this possibility to full extent. According to Zhanna Zayonchkovskaya, the chief of the Laboratory for Migration at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute for Economic Forecasting, "Any improvement in living standards is impossible without an increase in the economically active population." Ukraine and Kazakhstan are two former Soviet republics that have decided to liberalize their immigration policies. Russia, though, "in the last 15 years has squandered its chances of becoming 'the America of the 21st century' and attract twice as many labor resources," Ms. Zayonchkovskaya underlines. Meanwhile, a third of enterprises in Russia - a country with a growing economy - are in desperate need of personnel. In the 1990s, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and other former Soviet republics provided a steady flow of cheap labor to Russia. Even today, according to official data, half of the temporary foreign workers employed in Russia are migrants from other CIS countries. Russia still tops the list of recipient countries: the population replenishment intensity coefficient in Russia equals 1.8% of the overall population. However, Ukraine and Kazakhstan have started to compete with Russia. "These countries are picking off immigrants that might otherwise have gone to Russia and even Russian specialists prefer to migrate there in search of work," Ms. Zayonchkovskaya says. These countries' industries are growing, and migration legislation is more liberal there. For instance, temporary foreign workers do not have to register with local authorities. As a result, Russia has to replenish labor and demographicresources by attracting immigrants from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Unfortunately, the majority of immigrants from these countries are unskilled workers. China is the major donor of temporary work force in the Russian Far East, followed by Vietnam. However, skilled Chinese workers are gradually starting to turn to the Japanese market rather than Russia, which, Ms. Zayonchkovskaya surmises, is becoming an immigration outsider. "We can still attempt to attract immigrants from other Asia-Pacific region countries, but we cannot count on the inflow of skilled workers," she believes. Russia must learn to "digest" the multi-ethnic inflow and attempt to integrate as many migrants to society as possible, believes Anatoly Vishnevsky, the head of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Center for Demography and Human Ecology. "The 'aliens' - newcomers from foreign cultures - must become 'natives,'" he says. In other words, the "guests" must be helped to integrate in Russian society, as this is both Russia's and their own interests. Education should play a key role in this respect. Russia must be ready to provide free training for foreign workers, free education for their children, and attempt to assimilate them into Russian culture. Even Interior Ministry officials have started talking about the need to liberalize migration policy. The deputy director of the Federal Migration Service under the Interior Ministry, Mikhail Tyurkin, announced at a round table in late December 2004 that all the concerned state bodies must pool their efforts "to develop a common action plan." The migration legislation must be liberalized to attract more "law-abiding migrants," he concluded. Even the World Bank seems to be concerned about the immigration crisis in Russia. In December, its representative office in Russia invited various academics and experts to discuss the issue. Although the World Bank still does not have a specific plan for financially stimulating labor migration to Russia, it has certainly started to study the problem.
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