Current migration situation and trends in Kyrgyzstan

CURRENT SITUATION AND TRENDS

Internal and external migration has been a characteristic feature of the country’s development for the last 25-30 years. In recent years there has been an intense internal migration from rural regions and small towns to urban centers with a developed infrastructure such as Bishkek, Osh and Jalal-Abad. The highest inflow of internal migrants is observed in the Chui region, the lowest in the Naryn and Batken regions.

According to the report of the State Migration Service under the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic, in 2017 over 700,000 citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic were labour migrants, of which the majority were in the Russian Federation. The accession of the Kyrgyz Republic to the Eurasian Economic Union in 2015 significantly influenced the growth in the number of workers migrating from Kyrgyzstan to Russia: from 526,000 people in 2014 to about 665,000 people in 2017. It has also led to a decrease in the number of re-entry banned migrants to the Russian Federation, which is estimated to be 83,000 people in 2017 compared to 118,000 people in 2016.

According to the World Bank, in the last several years remittances of Kyrgyzstani labour migrants have been progressively increasing. In 2018 they made up to 35% of Kyrgyzstan’s GDP, making the Republic the second country with the highest contribution of remittances to GDP in the world. These remittances are an important contributor to poverty reduction in the country, as observed for the last 10-15 years. The outflow of labour from Kyrgyzstan also results in wage growth for workers remaining in Kyrgyzstan, which has increased faster than the country’s economic growth. 

In regards to how migrants’ remittances are being spent, the money sent to families in Kyrgyzstan allows them to invest in real estate, thereby stimulating employment in the construction industry. However, the investments, including in agriculture and food processing sectors, are minimal with over 90 percent of remittances spent on primary needs, whereas much smaller shares go to savings and investments in rural areas.

Almost 40% of Kyrgyz migrants to Russia are women. Migrant women work primarily in the service sector, catering, textiles, and as domestic workers. Majority of women migrants work in the informal employment sector for more than 10 hours a day and have limited access to social protection services. Women migrants are often facing multiple forms of discrimination and stigma in the country of origin and destination and become vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence.

Parents of more than 61,000 children are working abroad and most of them are outside of the country. This has serious adverse implications for the children and families with migrating parents. The decision to leave children behind in the care of relatives is made because migrating parents perceive migration as unsafe for their family since they are not sure whether their children will be safe in the destination country, able to receive schooling and have access to medical and other social services.

Only 52% of Kyrgyzstani citizens working in the Russian Federation are fluent in Russian. The remaining 48% face difficulties in finding decent jobs, including due to the lack of language skills.

Migrants face a lot of challenges during the migration process and on return, some of which are related to health. As per the latest statistics, 45% of registered cases of active tuberculosis in medical institutions of the Kyrgyz Republic are migrant returnees. It is just as important to mention that emerging challenges of migrants in obtaining medical insurance became the main reason for migrants experiencing health problems.

The question of pension provision for migrant workers is a looming one since, despite their pension contributions in destination countries, no actual savings are made as in most cases there are no bilateral agreements on social security between countries of origin and destination. Besides challenges with employment, there are other external factors affecting migrants’ well-being abroad. According to the study of the Search for Common Ground and Royal United Services Institute on understanding the factors contributing to radicalization among Central Asian migrant workers in Russia, there is some evidence of structural factors within the process of labour migration leading to marginalization, exclusion and alienation. These are caused by the administrative and legal challenges of the migration process, economic exploitation, and the migration discourse shifts toward an emphasis on security, which constitute drivers that can be exploited by violent extremist entities.

In 2018, the average age of the population in Kyrgyzstan amounted to 27.5 years making it the second youngest population in Central Asia, after Tajikistan, while the number of economically active population in Kyrgyzstan reached 2,547,400, which accounts for 40.6% of the total population. In regards to age-determination of migrants working abroad, according to statistics 60.46% of total number of migrants are young people aged between 15 and 29 years.