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Former Soviet Republics - Labour migration doesn't always pay off

28 December 2012

Nearly four in 10 migrants who have returned home to their countries in the former Soviet Union said the temporary work they did abroad did not improve their families' economic situations, revealed the research firm Gallup in a report.

Results from interviews between 2010 and 2012 with returning migrants in nine former Soviet Union countries also indicate relatively few benefited professionally from their temporary work in another country. Less than half (48%) of these returning migrants said their professional qualifications improved as a result, and 31% said their work experience in another country helped them get a better paying job when they returned home. One-third of returning migrants said they were working in their main profession while they were abroad.

Returning migrants from Central Asia were most likely to benefit financially and professionally from their time working in another country. More than half of Central Asian returning migrants reported their professional qualifications improved; compared with 38% in Moldova and 37% in the Caucasus reporting the same. In addition, 39% in Central Asia got better paying jobs after returning to their home country, compared with 17% of Moldovans and 16% in the Caucasus.

Women who worked abroad realized fewer benefits than did men in all dimensions measured. Female returning migrants were less likely to work in their main professions while in other countries and less likely to gain professional benefits. The gender gap is largest in the improvement of professional qualifications.

How migrants spent the money they earned abroad may shed some light on why so many said their situations did not improve. The vast majority of people (63%) said that they spent most of the money on basic needs. Few reported using this money to invest in their future: 2% spent the money on their own or their family members' education, 3% used it to open businesses, and 3% saved it.

Most of these former Soviet countries are highly dependent on their people working in other countries. To maximize the potential benefits from return migration, governments in these countries could provide language and skills training. Such training could aid migrants in getting better jobs in other countries and in gaining additional knowledge and experience that they can share when they return to their home country. Offering financial and business literacy training may also help workers invest in their future through education and savings.

Results are based on 19,000 adults, aged 15 and older, in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan. Interviews were conducted face to face between 2010 and 2012. A total of 1,330 survey respondents were identified as temporary labour migrants (in past 10 years had worked in another country temporarily and came back home).

To access the results of this survey, click here

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