Divorces and feminization of labor migration become a problem in Kyrgyzstan

BISHKEK (TCA) — The problem of divorce and the birth of children out of wedlock is becoming more acute among Kyrgyzstan’s labor migrants living in Russia.

Kyrgyz men avoid responsibility to their families due to poor upbringing and lack of control by parents, experts say. Parents are happy that their elder children can earn in Russia, but do not know how they live there. Not all young families can cope with the difficulties of living in migration. As a rule, they have no housing and have to live with other migrants in shared rental apartments.

Migrants begin to forget their origin, national and family values. Experts see the reasons in the lack of education and disappearing of family traditions in society.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Development of Kyrgyzstan has returned 63 children abandoned by migrants in Russia since 2011. Most of them were born into an illegal marriage. There is no official statistics on the conclusion of official marriages and divorces of Kyrgyz citizens in Russia.

While women are leaving for Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkey and other countries, their children remain in Kyrgyzstan with relatives, not getting proper education. Therefore, the feminization of labor migration from Central Asia has also become a problem.

There are still more male migrants, but there is a tendency for the feminization of labor migration. This will have a significant negative impact on society through a generation as the criminalization of youth can increase.

The results of a survey conducted among migrants in Russia also revealed other problems, including the lack of knowledge of the Russian language by young people and a weak knowledge of their rights. For instance, migrants from Kyrgyzstan in a difficult situation turn to religious figures for help, while Uzbek citizens go to the migration police.

Remittances growing

Labor migrants transferred to Kyrgyzstan over $1.58 billion in the first eight months of the year, which is $320 million, or 20.3% more compared to the same period last year, the National Bank of the Kyrgyz Republic reported. Most of the remittances ($1.55 billion) came from Russia.

According to the State Migration Service of Kyrgyzstan, as many as 780,000 Kyrgyz citizens are in labor migration. Of these, 616 thousand work in Russia, more than 30 thousand in Kazakhstan, about 20 thousand in Turkey, 14 thousand in South Korea, and more than 20 thousand in European countries and the United States. According to other sources, there are about one million of labor migrants in Russia. The primary push factors for migration are the economic ones. According to UNDP data, a quarter of Kyrgyz nationals live in poverty.

ЕEU preferences

After Kyrgyzstan’s accession of the Eurasian Economic Union in August 2015, the number of its migrants in the EEU member countries annually increases by 25%. Absence of language barriers, access to social packages, recognition of higher education diplomas, a loyal regime of stay in Russia and Kazakhstan attracts migrants from Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan’s citizens do not have to obtain a work permit and they pay taxes as Russian residents.

According to the survey “Migrant Vulnerabilities and Integration Needs in Central Asia” developed by the International Organization for Migration and other agencies, close to 594 thousand Kyrgyz citizens were registered in Russia at the beginning of 2017, which represents an increase of more than 30 thousand compared to the previous year. Kyrgyz migration to Kazakhstan similarly picked up from 114 thousand in 2015 to 157 thousand in 2016.

Accordingly, the remittances from labor migrants have increased.

About $2 billion transferred by labor migrants from Russia annually, make up 30-40% of the country’s GDP. There are also transfers from Kazakhstan and other countries.

The attitude towards migrants’ remittances has changed. The transferred money were spent not for weddings or other celebrations but were invested in real estate or in working capital of relatives. Construction of both apartment houses and individual houses is underway in Bishkek and in Osh due to a stable flow of money.

Kazakhstan as destination country

A strong increase in migration from other Central Asian countries was registered in Kazakhstan.

According to the ILO survey, in 2016, the number of Kyrgyz migrants increased by 50% and exceeds 150 thousand in Kazakhstan. After Kyrgyzstan’s accession of the EEU, the Kyrgyz citizens are no longer taken into account in the migration statistics of Kazakhstan. Most of the migrants settled in Almaty, Astana, as well as in border areas with Kyrgyzstan, mostly in the Almaty and Zhambyl regions, the survey said. The key sectors of foreign employment are construction, agriculture and trade.

Migrants from neighboring Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, moving to Kazakhstan for work, have comparative advantage over going to Russia. Due to shorter distances, travel expenses are low. Besides, patents can be obtained for brief periods ranging from one to three months and are renewable for up to one year, which allows for significant flexibility in planning migration projects.

Kyrgyzstan has also been successful at diversifying its migrant destinations, the ILO survey says. As many as 27% of the country’s external migrants have chosen destinations other than Russia. Half of them moved to neighboring Kazakhstan, but increasingly they choose more distant destinations, such as Turkey and South Korea.

Internal migration

To stop internal migration, it is necessary to create jobs in Kyrgyzstan. The Regional Development Concept adopted by the Government provides the development of 20 pilot cities, in which new processing enterprises will be built and the local population will be provided with jobs.

The Government expects that these measures would help young people stay and work in their native lands, and they will have the means to enter into marriage and purchase housing in a mortgage.

Earlier this year, mortgage lending rates for public housing were reduced from 14% to 10%. The Government decided to reduce the interest rate on the state mortgage loan to 8% from October 1, 2017. In the future, the Government plans to allocate mortgage loans at low rates not only for employees of the budgetary sphere (teachers and doctors), but also for other citizens in need of housing.

The irrigation development program will also stop internal migration, the Government believes. According to the program, there will be new settlements and farms at more than 65,000 hectares of new irrigated land, and about 240 thousand new jobs will be created.

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