St. Petersburg Times
The Associated Press
MOSCOW — Russia should ease barriers to immigration in order to reduce the impact of labor shortages, slower economic growth and other pressures brought on by its ongoing demographic crisis, a United Nations report said Monday.
The report said that Russia should adopt legal and other reforms that insure basic rights and access to services for millions of migrants, many of them from other former Soviet nations, who work in construction and other industries. These workers often face discrimination, exploitation and in the worst case even violence.
Migrants in the former Soviet Union not only provide a crucial source of labor for Russia, the report found, they serve a vital economic purpose in their home countries.
The amount of money sent to Tajikistan by its citizens working abroad represents 45 percent of its gross domestic product, the highest level in the world, an earlier UN study found. Most of Tajikistan’s migrant workers are employed in Russia.
In order to ensure that Russia’s shrinking workforce does not slow economic development, the report said, efforts should be made to raise labor productivity.
In part, that means cutting employment in many faltering industries where Soviet-era labor practices linger.
Russia’s population has fallen by 6.6 million since 1993, despite the influx of millions of immigrants, according to a UN report released last year.
Population levels in many developed countries have stagnated and are expected to fall by 2025, but Russia’s population, currently around 142 million, has been in retreat since 1992. Russia’s mortality rate is among the highest in the developed world, with average life expectancy for males at barely 60 years.
The UN has also urged Russia to overhaul the health system to provide more efficient care, while encouraging lifestyle changes to reduce the number of deaths related to alcohol consumption.
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