17 february 2010

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with Konstantin Romodanovsky, head of the Federal Migration Service

Mr Putin and Mr Romodanovsky discussed labour migration and protection of the Russian labour market.

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Mr Romodanovsky, the demographic situation in all European countries, at least the leading ones, is very complicated and migration policy is therefore an instrument for both easing demographic tension and resolving a host of economic problems. The issue is first of all the attraction of migrant labour primarily to those economic sectors and regions where we need it the most. I don't know if any country has attained this objective so far, with the exception of some non-European countries.

These are acute problems that we are facing. They are further complicated by the fact that we have visa-free travel to and from nearly all CIS countries. Nevertheless, we must still try to resolve these issues, without even mentioning all those problems created by unregulated migration. You are aware of these problems, as is the population.

Like all European countries, Russia should try to attract foreign workers with the qualifications our economy needs, and attract them to the sectors where they are most needed. Also, we should do this so as to prevent unnecessary competition on the labour market between foreign workers and Russian citizens, at least during the continuing economic downturn.

Overall, these problems, although very difficult, can be resolved. The draft law drawn up by your analysts and submitted by the government to the State Duma is aimed above all at changing migration policy. Today we will discuss the overall situation, but first I would like you to tell me what you expect from the implementation of the law, provided the State Duma adopts it?

Konstantin Romodanovsky: Mr Putin, four years ago you put it very well when you said that we should create conditions for civilised migration. In my opinion, that notion of civilised migration relates to the demographic situation and the creation of proper conditions for migrant workers, with the focus on attracting the skilled professionals our economy needs. That is exactly what we are working on.

However, approaching this as we did in the past, by assessing the general situation and drawing conclusions that are not based on figures, is already an outdated approach. We have launched an information system that allows us to assess the situation in the whole country and compile computer files for each migrant. This is not spying on people, but a normal civilised approach. This system allows us a degree of supervision over migration processes, and in future will allow us to regulate migration. By "migration" I mean both the migrants who plan to settle in Russia permanently and those who come here temporarily.

I think that we will attain this objective in a relatively short period of time. We have made certain achievements in this area. The demographic index exceeded 100% thanks to migration; it was 101.4% for the first 11 months last year. I don't think it will change dramatically by the end of the year. This is one of our main objectives. We have managed to protect Russian workers, the Russian labour market, by working with the Ministry of Healthcare and Social Development, which also marks a particular step towards attaining that key objective of restoring order in this area.

As for the draft law, it primarily stipulates the introduction of paid licences, so that foreign nationals who work for a private individual in Russia will pay 1,000 roubles a month in order to work legally for up to one year. The additional revenue generated by these payments will allow us to register this group of people who currently are almost invisible. They repair flats, build countryside houses, and are employed by Russians as gardeners, caretakers and street sweepers. All of them fall under the licence system. Another group of migrant workers includes highly skilled labour. We have proposed certain privileges for this group, and are using them to attract the professionals our economy most needs.

We have reached an agreement on this score, and I think that on the bill's second reading we will work with the Economic Development Ministry to draft some amendments to ensure that the document is long lasting and effective, primarily as regards its impact on the Russian economy.

Vladimir Putin: And now let's discuss the current situation.

Konstantin Romodanovsky (showing the documents): Mr Putin, the first diagram shows the Russian Federal Service of State Statistics (Rosstat) records on the nationwide demographic situation. As you can see, a negative peak was reached in 2002 when legislation stipulating tougher proceedings for obtaining Russian citizenship was enacted. Other processes also affected the trend. As I see it, we should closely consider all the problems citizens face and make certain amendments.

Page two shows the statistics for a two-year period. This is our automated system. Green stripes denote border crossings, while blue stripes denote the arrival of foreign citizens. The green stripe shows that an individual has repeatedly entered the country. For instance, a five-point rate was posted for Estonia, Finland and Latvia. This means that each citizen entered the Russian Federation five times. The yellow stripe denotes the number of work permits issued during a specified month and year. There is a noticeable difference between the entrance of citizens and real labour activity. The bill aims to minimize this difference.

This is a breakdown of the entrance of foreign citizens. It includes the workforce, entrance on private invitations and for personal reasons.

Vladimir Putin: Most people come from Ukraine.

Konstantin Romodanovsky: Yes that's right. Ukraine is the main supplier of labour and also accounts for most private visitors.

Vladimir Putin: Second comes Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan third. The breakdown is 2.8 million people from Ukraine, 1.5 million people from Uzbekistan and 1.4 million people from Kazakhstan.

Konstantin Romodanovsky: Mr Putin, these are December 31, 2009 statistics. New statistics are currently being finalised, and there may be some small changes in the order of 100,000 people.

This diagram shows the current situation: 4,891,296 foreign citizens are currently living in the Russian Federation. In terms of the breakdown, this includes people from countries with which we have visa-free travel as well as those requiring visas. Separate sectors show how many of them have work permits. Therefore we can see once again that the number of legal workers is, unfortunately, quite insignificant.

Vladimir Putin: Visa-free traffic accounts for 78% of the grand total.

Konstantin Romodanovsky: This is the number of people who have entered Russia and are living here. There are 332,000 legal workers. In relation to this, I mentioned that we have submitted a bill to government on licences, which they have supported. We hope that the document will prove effective, that these people will receive licences and remain in the Russian Federation, working legally.

Then there is our performance in law-enforcement. Toughening up the procedures required to issue work-permits has made it possible to issue 30% fewer permits to foreign citizens and to protect Russian workers.

Vladimir Putin: Do you mean for 2009?

Konstantin Romodanovsky: Yes, for 2009. We have reduced the amount you envisaged by 30% and have met the 1,473,000 work-permit quota. I am therefore confident that the 2010 target is feasible, and that it will not cause workforce shortages at production facilities. We stipulate tougher law-enforcement proceedings, we have compiled more protocols and were, unfortunately, forced to deport almost 70% more foreign citizens. We also imposed 7 billion roubles in fines, collecting over 3 billion roubles of this sum total.

Vladimir Putin: The number of people deported from the Russian Federation in 2009 has soared by 70% compared to 2008.

Konstantin Romodanovsky: Yes.

Temporary-residence permits are a separate category. Last year, we asked regional governors to assess this system more closely. It is precisely this system which has enabled us to change the demographic component because temporary-residence permits are the first stage for obtaining Russian citizenship and settling here. We are monitoring regional migration-growth correlations and population decline closely. And we try to introduce amendments that can be made by the Federal Migration Service in order to even out the situation. As you know, the situation has changed for the better in a number of constituent entities.

Vladimir Putin: What are the "largest and smallest migration-growth rates?" Does this imply the number of individuals arriving and settling down here?

Konstantin Romodanovsky: Yes.

Vladimir Putin: And this is primarily in the Moscow region?

Konstantin Romodanovsky: Exactly, Mr Putin.

Vladimir Putin: It is followed by St Petersburg, the Novgorod Region and the Leningrad Region. This means that Moscow comes fifth. As Moscow is located near the Moscow Region, the entire area is then the undisputed leader.

Konstantin Romodanovsky: This diagram should be superimposed on the next diagram showing natural population growth rates. Areas experiencing natural population growth call for lower migration growth rates. Constituent entities should prioritise this concept.

Mr Putin, we are starting to provide electronic services to the population, including Russian and foreign citizens. Although the Federal Migration Service is taking certain steps in this direction, specific legislative systems disrupt this process. A foreign citizen wishing to obtain Russian citizenship first receives a temporary residence permit, collecting 15 to 20 documents and subsequently applies for a permanent residence permit requiring the same documents and checks. He or she then obtains Russian citizenship. Perhaps it would make sense to take a closer look and to remove some part of this process. For instance, we could abolish temporary residence permits and start issuing permanent residence permits instead.

Vladimir Putin: It is obvious that we do not need superfluous bureaucracy. Please assess the situation and submit your proposal.

Konstantin Romodanovsky: People find this sheer bureaucracy utterly frustrating. .

Vladimir Putin: Please make an assessment and finalise your proposals.

Konstantin Romodanovsky: Will do.

Fewer Russian and foreign passports were issued this year. This is an effect of the crisis. We can see that fewer people are leaving for their places of permanent residence. At the same time, the number of Russian citizens registering where they are has increased by 10%. In effect, people are leaving their permanent residence and registering at the place of arrival. This highlights the Russian population's greater mobility. The crisis has forced those who have families to feed to look for jobs in other regions.

Vladimir Putin: We just need to create the essential conditions to encourage mobility. However, this is a separate subject linked with supporting the labour market, creating jobs, and offering relocation incentives for new workers. The relevant commission will continue to examine these aspects separately. On the whole, increased population mobility is a good economic indicator.

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