Kyrgyzstan: different sides of labor migration


BISHKEK (TCA) — Labor migrants gradually turn into real investors of Kyrgyzstan’s new economy, President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbai Jeenbekov said at his meeting with compatriots who work outside the country earlier this month.

Supporting economy

“I am very grateful to our migrants who establish foundations, public associations and help their villages and homeland,” Jeenbekov said.

To reduce migration, it is necessary to develop the regions of the country, open processing enterprises, and to provide the local population with jobs, Jeenbekov believes. State-owned banks, the Russian-Kyrgyz Development Fund and Guarantee Fund provide soft loans to entrepreneurs in the regions, he added.

Entrepreneurs working abroad asked the Kyrgyz Government to exempt their enterprises in Kyrgyzstan from taxes for five years. They also proposed to impose a moratorium on the fiscal authorities’ checks of their businesses for three years.

Labor migrants in Russia are concerned about their health insurance and pension payments. The Kyrgyz Parliament plans to discuss these issues in September. Labor migrants who left the country in 1990-1995, have now reached retirement age, but many of them remain without pensions.

Experts proposed to raise the status of the Migration Service of Kyrgyzstan to the ministry.

According to the State Migration Service of Kyrgyzstan, more than 800,000 Kyrgyz citizens work abroad. According to unofficial data, there are more than a million of them. Taking into account that each migrant provides a family of three or more people, almost three million citizens of Kyrgyzstan depend on labor migrants while the country’s population is about six million people.

Last year, migrant workers transferred $2.48 billion to Kyrgyzstan, or 34.3% of the country’s GDP.

Russia’s blacklist shortened

According to official data, as of June 1, 2018, there were 638,700 citizens of Kyrgyzstan in Russia, 15.8 thousand more compared to the same period in 2017. By this indicator, Kyrgyzstan is on the third place among the CIS countries after Uzbekistan (2.1 million), Ukraine (1.9 million) and Tajikistan (1.2 million).

The growth potential of temporary migration from the Eurasian Economic Union member countries to Russia has been exhausted, except for Kyrgyzstan, the growth of migration from which continues, experts of the Russian Institute for Economic Policy reported.

As of June 1, 2018, there were 4.2 million migrant workers in Russia who officially entered the country in order to “work for hire”, and more than 96% of migrants are from the CIS countries.

More than 7 thousand Kyrgyzstanis were removed from the blacklist of the Russian Migration Service over the first half of this year, the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry said. At the end of 2017, the blacklist included 77 thousand people and it has decreased to 70 thousand.

The process of withdrawal continues, but there are certain difficulties, because about 50 thousand citizens were blacklisted by court decisions. Accordingly, only the court can withdraw them from there. The rest were included in this list by the decision of ministries and departments for minor violations.


Labor migration has not only positive but also negative sides. Many Kyrgyz migrants fell into slavery in Kazakhstan, the Worldwide Movement for Human Rights reported. Because of their undocumented legal status in Kazakhstan, migrants are often exploited by employers and intermediaries, who force migrants to work without payment, withhold the migrants’ passports, and restrict their freedom of movement and medical access, the report says.

“The inability of labor migrants to obtain an official status in the host country often leaves them at the mercy of their traffickers and employers, who often treat them, including women and children, as slaves,” said Tolekan Ismailova, President of Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan human rights movement.

Given the spread of corruption, labor migrants usually seek help from non-governmental organizations but not from the law enforcement bodies.

The cases of human trafficking and slavery involving labor migrants are well known to the authorities and NGOs but no effective efforts have been taken to protect Kyrgyz labor migrants, Ismailova concluded. By ratifying the ILO conventions, Kazakhstan agreed to guarantee certain labor rights for workers, including labor migrants.

According to the Migration Service of Kyrgyzstan, 175 people were freed from slavery in Kazakhstan last year.

Divorces and child abuse

Labor migration causes family divorces, child abuse, and early marriages among girls, local NGOs reported.

Migrants often enter second families in the host states. Studies conducted by NGOs show that the number of divorces in families of migrants has increased by an average of 12% over the last year. Migrants’ children abandoned by parents have to live with their relatives. The survey found many examples of cruel treatment of children mainly from close people.

There are many early and forced marriages in such families because relatives force girls to marry to quickly get rid of caring for them.

The migration rate is particularly high in the south of the country. For instance, 38% of residents in the Batken oblast are on earnings outside the region, and many children are raised without parents there.

The study also showed the irrational use of money coming from labor migrants. Instead of investing in the education of children, improving living conditions, people spend money on wasteful weddings and other events. This suggests that it is necessary to increase the financial literacy of the population.

Human rights activists suggested introducing extra-class hours for migration in schools, because many migrants leave for work without knowing the laws and their rights. As a result, employers often deceive them.

At these lessons, high school students need to learn how to enter into employment contracts and not to violate the legislation of the host state.

Protecting children

The European Union and UNICEF have launched a new program to protect children affected by migration in the countries of South-East, South and Central Asia. Over the next three years, assistance will be provided to children affected by migration, including migrant children. The European Union allocated 800,000 euros for the implementation of the project.

According to UNICEF, more than 11% of children in Kyrgyzstan (about 259,000 people) are left behind, with one or both parents living abroad. The absence of parents can lead to a range of psychological and social difficulties.

“Children affected by migration are too often pushed to the margins of society. They face difficulties accessing essential services and are vulnerable to violence, exploitation and abuse. UNICEF thanks the European Union for this generous contribution, which will better protect children who have been left behind in Kyrgyzstan,” said Yukie Mokuo, UNICEF Representative in Kyrgyzstan.