Student Policy Seminar Series: Labor Migration from Armenia and Georgia: Why Russia?
Wednesday, 06 December, 2017

The second presentation of the Policy Seminar Series took place on December 6, 2017. This time, Davit Hovhannisyan and Anahit Sargsyan – under the supervision of Karine Torosyan, a member of the resident faculty of ISET – led the presentation with a paper entitled “Labor Migration from Armenia and Georgia: Why Russia?”.

The students discussed international migration as a global phenomenon. According to the data presented, the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that there were 244.0 million international migrants worldwide in 2015, of which 150.3 million are labor migrants. Labor migration from Armenia and Georgia was the particular interest of the students’ research.

They explained that there is push and pull factors that influence people’s decision to leave their home countries and look for job opportunities abroad. Factors influencing people’s decision to leave their country of origin are either economic in origin (i.e. high unemployment level, lack of job opportunities, low wages, and high taxes) or non-economic (in-country conflicts, political/ethnical issues, corruption). Among the pull factors that attract a foreign country are a high GDP per capita, demand for labor supply, common ties/history/language knowledge, network/diaspora, and the legal framework of migration policies. The populations of Armenia and Georgia have noticeably decreased since both countries gained independence. The reasons for leaving the countries in the early 1990s were for resettlement in another country for economic issues with no intention to return, conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh (Armenia) and Abkhazia (Georgia), and the emigration of ethnic minorities from Armenia and Georgia.

The reasons for leaving the countries in the 2000s were already less for resettlement purposes, as people were leaving to find seasonal jobs abroad. The decision to choose a country for labor migration has also been influenced by the foreign policies of Armenia and Georgia. Since gaining independence, Armenia and Georgia have maintained political ties with the EU and the Russian Federation, the main regional players. However, the countries diverged significantly in choosing political allies, as Georgia has a Deep and Comprehensive Free Agreement (DCFTA) with the EU, while Armenia is a member of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union and only recently signed Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with Europe.

Over time, Armenia and Georgia have experienced a decrease in their populations and an increase in the levels of unemployment. According to the available data, over the last five years both Armenia and Georgia improved the situation in the unemployment rate and achieved a level of 16.5% and 11.3% of unemployment, respectively. While looking at net migration level indicators, Armenian migrants tend to go to Russia, the USA, and Ukraine, while for Georgian migrants, Russia, Greece, and Ukraine are the most desirable destinations. Looking at specific economic factors which influence migration decisions and destinations, the students tried to find main the benefits of migrants in host countries and compared Armenia and Georgia with Russia. The fact that the unemployment level, market size, average income social security is in better condition in the Russian Federation makes a migrant choose Russia. From the emigration stock of Armenians and Georgians in Russia (numbering 527,287 and 450,221 respectively), the students looked at the net migration level in Russia and determined that net migration has ultimately decreased but there are still high numbers of migrants. Another issue connected with migration is the legal framework of Armenia and Georgia, wherein the principal institutions were only established in the late 1990s. Armenian migration policies and regulations are governed by the State Migration Service of the Republic of Armenia, and in Georgia, the State Commission on Migration Issues deals with migration policies and the development of legal frameworks.