Norms and Values
Whither International Migration?

Despite decades of positive experience in the reception and integration of migrants, which have been accumulated by modern states, migrants remain a socially vulnerable group. From the exclusively social problems that are typical for all categories of citizens, we are returning to the issue of economics, namely, qualitative forecasting, writes Valdai Club expert Maria Apanovich.

On December 18, the world commemorates International Migrants Day. Over the past forty years, the share of international migrants in the world has grown from just over 2% to 3.6% and in absolute terms is equivalent to the population of a small European state. Over this entire period, states have accumulated tremendous experience in terms of receiving foreigners from various walks of life. However, as practice shows, factors regularly arise that affect changes in the trends and intensity of migration flows. Social problems are among the most difficult to solve; the report by Dmitry Poletaev and Andrey Korobkov “The Social Problems of International Migrants”, is devoted to this subject.

The primary starting point for the need for migration is traditionally the economic component, and for many years, states have developed within this paradigm. The classics of theoretical approaches (Ravenstein, Lee, Massey, and others) have to one degree or another spoken about indicators of economic attractiveness driving people to change their place of residence. Almost a century has passed since the discovery of a group of “push and pull” factors. The world has moved from bloc confrontation to globalisation, and back to localisation and multi-vector policy, and economic theories continue to provide an answer to the causality of migration. Let’s not oversimplify; an evolution of approaches has also been observed. The more massive migration flows and their diversity in terms of categories (labour, refugees, students, etc.) has forced us to pay more attention to integration practices. Here, elements that are more difficult to explain are already of interest: psychology, as well as the desire and ability to integrate and adapt. Recently, the RIAC working paper “International experience in the implementation of migration policy” was published; it just presented examples of different countries in the field of implementation of integration tactics.

Any integration is not a process of pure adaptation, i.e. adaptation to conditions, but a deeper acceptance. The factor of “acceptance”, as it manifests itself in the active interaction of a person with the social policy of the state in which he or she is located, is impossible without an assessment of the necessary measures (on the part of the state). Actually, this largely sends us back to the field of economics. To accurately determine the resource required for the integration of migrants, the country must calculate the number of new social facilities, how many specialists are needed in the field of providing legal or psychological assistance to migrants, etc. The assessment is carried out by the state on the basis of current migration flows, their direction and specificity.

Global Migration
The number of international migrants globally reached an estimated 272 million in 2019, outpacing growth rate of the world’s population

Can the state make a mistake in its calculations? It certainly may happen. The conditions for the existence of migration during the COVID-19 pandemic and the forms of employment have shown here a new field for consideration. If we are talking about low-skilled workers or skilled workers whose work is associated with a direct presence in the workplace, then their number is predictable. However, it is not uncommon for them to come with their families, children, and, therefore, it is also necessary to take into account the possible burden on social institutions. In recent years, much more attention has been paid to this issue. Experts are conducting research, for example, in the field of resettling migrants, migrant children’s access to social institutions (education, healthcare). On the eve of the International Migrants Day, it is necessary to focus on this problem.

Another area of discourse that emerged in 2022 concerns skilled and highly skilled workers who leave the territory of their country and continue to work remotely. Similar examples existed before, but thanks to the digitalisation of the pandemic period, they opened up more opportunities for people to live where they like in terms of lifestyle and climatic conditions, while maintaining traditional employment. By and large, this category of people can’t be thought of as labour migrants; they often leave for visa-free countries or for a tourist destination, but due to the fact that their sojourn is relatively long, the social sphere of the receiving state is also involved. The Grushin sociological conference at VTsIOM this year devoted an entire section to the “relocation” issue. The term “relocation” even got new meaning, because earlier in classical literature it could only be found in relation to the movement of refugees and internally displaced persons, as it concerned the case of Lampedusa in 2013, when Italy requested assistance from the European Union in resolving a crisis situation.

In addition to the “relocation” update, the current trend has identified several problematic points at once. First, there is a gap in statistical data (those who left the territory of the Russian Federation for Georgia or Kazakhstan and actually “settled” in these countries). Many did not go directly to the country where they planned to live, but did so through third countries. Second, the results of the first surveys by Levada and VTsIOM showed that a significant number of citizens continue to work remotely in the Russian Federation. The arrival of “relocatees” in the countries is associated, among other things, with social effects. Receiving countries do not include them in the number of labour migrants, and, therefore, do not plan for the expansion of the social sphere for new migrants. At the same time, while in the country, Russian citizens also need access to medical services, schools and preschool.

Summing up, it should be noted that despite decades of positive experience in the reception and integration of migrants, which have been accumulated by modern states, migrants remain a socially vulnerable group. From the exclusively social problems that are typical for all categories of citizens, we are returning to the issue of economics, namely, qualitative forecasting.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.