Declining opportunities: New UNDP report examines recent downturns in migration and remittances in Central Asia

Oct 21, 2015

Photo: IOM

The report presented today in Brussels reveals that despite a drop since 2014, migration levels in Central Asia are likely to see a marked increase in the coming decade.

Recent declines, according to the study, have been due in large part to the economic slowdown in Russia and Kazakhstan, as well as tighter implementation of migration regulations in Russia. According to UNDP Regional Bureau for Europe and the CIS (RBEC)’s resident economist Ben Slay, “Prevailing demographic and economic forecasts strongly suggest that migration and remittance flows for the less wealthy Central Asian countries will continue to be quite significant in the next 15 years.”

International labour migration - and accompanying remittance flows- have become key international development drivers. After four years of solid increases, remittance into Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan fell– and then dropped sharply during the first half of 2015. However, with the numbers of jobless workers in those countries projected to increase by anywhere from 16-25 percent from 2014 to 2030, an economic upswing in Russia and Kazakhstan seems likely to provide a boost in labour migration. This could particularly be the case for new Eurasian Economic Union member Kyrgyzstan, whose citizens will no longer need special permission to work in Russia and Kazakhstan.

UNDP alongside the Eurasian Development Bank’s Centre for Integration Studies and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has launched the report in Brussels, Moscow and Istanbul. The tri-city launch highlights the global impact this kind of migration has, which goes well beyond Russia and the surrounding countries’ borders.

“Migration in and of itself is neither good nor bad. Its outcome depends very much on how it happens and what kinds of policies are in place from both migrant source and destination countries,” argues Slay. “A people-centered analysis can help us understand migration and remittances better—people are moving to improve their life choices—and to help governments better manage the benefits and costs of migration.”

The report also provides a series of sweeping recommendations to the region’s governments and development partners which include improving information provision to potential migrants, investing in vocational training programmes, investing in more labour-intensive industries to create more jobs, boosting outreach to diaspora communities to name just a few.

The study concludes that significant benefits could result from stronger efforts to place the management of labour migration and remittance flows at the centre of national development policies and programming, the adoption of “whole of government” approaches to migration management, improvements in the quality and availability of data concerning migration, and placing remittances and labour migration at the centre of the new Sustainable Development Goals.

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Ariel Rubin, Communications Analyst  

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