Migrant Worker Children More Successful than Native Russians – OpEd


Gastarbeiters in Russian cities from the former Soviet republics typically work at lower-paying and lower-status jobs than the Russians around them, but their children on reaching maturity often have more education and have higher incomes that do members of the indigenous population, according to a new study.

The study, which focused only on Armenians and Azerbaijanis, was conducted by a group of scholars at the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service. They warn against overgeneralizing the results of this small pilot research project on a subject about which little academic work has been carried out (kommersant.ru/doc/3468861).

But Yevgeny Varshaver, who led the research group, says the findings are suggestive of a trend that may become widespread if large numbers of children of gastarbeiters choose to remain in Russia long enough to grow up, get an education and go to work on their own.

He notes that his group found that this second generation of migrants, aged 18 to 30, had average reported incomes of 36,400 rubles (600 US dollars) a month, as compared to average reported incomes among native Russians of 25,600 rubles (430 US dollars) a month, a significant difference.

The researchers found that some of the Armenians and Azerbaijanis in smaller Russian cities went to work in the same kind of businesses their parents had started, while those in Moscow and other larger cities, especially women, typically went into professions requiring more education which they had managed to achieve.

According to Varshaver, “migrants of the second generation are more educated than the average for Russians,” with a higher percentage of them completing higher education while Russians as a whole tended to stop before doing so. Thus, the migrants experienced greater upward social mobility than Russians.

With regard to their attachment to their ethnic communities, he continues, the evidence points in two ways. In smaller cities where ethnic regions have formed, the second generation tends to stay within the community, while in Moscow, where no such regions have emerged in the same way, the reverse is the case.

Varshaver says that “there is no integration policy in Russia,” largely because those charged with dealing with the issue are the police. The latter’s use of force may keep the first generation in line, he continues, but this will have a much smaller impact on the second generation.

And that is going to matter ever more in the future, he suggests, because the first generation of migrants had a common Soviet background while the second generation may be less affected by that and more by ethnicity. And any new immigrants will be increasingly different because they do not share such common experiences.

In his comments to Kommersant, Varshaver does not discuss how Russians are likely to view the outcome he describes with children of migrants doing better than children of indigenous Russians. But if this report is given widespread attention, it is certain to spark resentment and possibly lead to even more demands that migrants and their children be sent home.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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