Immigration to Russia: Why it is Inevitable, and How Large it May Have to Be in Order to Provide the Workforce Russia Needs

Grigory Ioffe and Zhanna Zayonchkovskaya, Radford University and Institute for Economic Forecasting, Russian Academy of Sciences


Between 1992 and 2008, Russia's population shrank by 6.6 million people, a result of deaths exceeding births by 12.6 million and immigration exceeding emigration by 6.0 million. Having reached a peak of almost 1 million people in 1994, net immigration subsided to 119,000 in 2004, but "negative natural increase" continued and is not likely to be reversed any time soon. Since the early nineties, many social scientists and journalists have commented on different aspects of Russia's demographic situation. Of recent analyses, the most informative are by Murray Feshbach (2008) and Timothy Heleniak (2009).

This paper addresses four questions: What causes and sustains the demand for immigration to Russia? What are the legal, illegal, and semi-legal segments of current immigration? What are the possible scenarios of immigration to Russia until 2026, the year for which the Russian Federal Bureau of Statistics (Rosstat) is currently making its own projections? What is the likely interplay of immigration and domestic migration, and what is the likely distribution of domestic and international migrants between Russia's Federal Districts (Okrugs) in 2026?

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