The Changing Face of Migration

The Changing Face of Migration 

St. Petersburg:  a Russian megalopolis
in which migrant labor is in high demand.  According to research
on the migrant/ethnic minority economy, migrant laborers typically find
work in various small businesses.  The areas of the economy in
which migrant laborers in St. Petersburg most typically seek work-indeed,
as is true in many other Russian cities-are construction or retail/small-scale
wholesale trade.  In the government’s eyes, the main problems
with respect to migrant workers are the illegal nature of the migration
itself and the non-receipt of tax payments from the economic activity
of these laborers.  For human rights workers, however, the main
concern lies elsewhere:  these migrants are often unable to exercise
their rights and freedoms, and as a result, they often end up as a discriminated-against
minority group, completely without rights.  In large part, this
situation is related to a lack of access to information about the practical
side of life in the guest country:  migrants do not know where
and how to look properly for work, who is required to provide them with
all of the necessary social safeguards-with respect to housing, medical
help, education for children, etc.

The bulk of the research presents the
government’s perspective and touches upon the possibility for regulating
migration and taking a full account of the numbers of migrants.
As for the voice of the migrants themselves, their point of view on
the problems that exist-as a rule, it is ignored.  All of this
makes the creation of an all-inclusive work program (a program that
would help migrant laborers resolve the problems that they frequently
face) and protection of their rights more difficult.  After all,
when changing their place of residence, migrants are not just moving
from one inhabited locality to another, but rather are completely re-shaping
their living circumstances and fundamentally changing the structure
of their lives.  Moreover, in the last few years, there has been
a new trend in migration. Migrant laborers’ gender profile is gradually
changing:  the typical migrant laborer is no longer a male; there
is more and more migration of females and families.  This new tendency
has a whole range of consequences, including the transformation of gender
contracts and relations in the family, new social problems, and a series
of new problems related to migrants’ rights, which is inevitable,
as now women’s and children’s issues must be taken into consideration.

Olga Tkach, The Center for Independent
Social Research, St. Petersburg, Russia

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