Migrant Workers And The Pandemic: The Need For Central Asia To Ease Dependence On Remittances From Russia
Author: Jeremy Cohen, Dante Schulz, Ambassador (Ret.) Robert F. Cekuta
Apr 20, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause major disruptions to the global economy and movements of people. This reality has had specific consequences in the Caspian region where each year hundreds of thousands of Central Asian migrant workers travel north to Russia, seeking to take advantage of its need for labor. In addition to the millions of citizens from Caspian countries who are long-term residents and workers in Russia, there are significant numbers in other countries such as Turkey and the Republic of Korea. The Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are among the world’s most remittance-dependent countries, relying in varying degrees on financial transfers from their workforce abroad to support their domestic economies.
Developments in 2020 show the downsides of such arrangements and the need to consider reducing this dependency once the pandemic is under control. While preliminary analysis suggests such moves will include the need for further market-based economic reforms to foster the private sector and job growth at home, governments of countries sending workers abroad as well as those receiving them may be advised to bolster social and legal measures for long- and short-term migrant workers to improve the resilience of these institutions.
In this report, the authors consider the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Asia’s remittance economies, and explore potential paths forward to make the regional economy more durable in the future. They also analyze the foreign policy considerations that both Russia and the Central Asian republics are taking as they navigate the complicated politics of migrant labor.