«The process of emigration does not have any significant effect on the demographic indicators of the population in Kazakhstan. In Kazakhstan, there is no threat of depopulation and aging of the nation», – Olga Simakova, Almaty-based sociologist, writes in her article.Русский
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- Kazakhstan has proven to be a leader in the Eurasian Union in terms of migration outflows;
- However, the migration balance in Kazakhstan is ten times less than the natural growth of the population;
- Emigration from Kazakhstan has not only a certain ethnicity, but also has acquired a specific age;
- There is a tendency for the outflow of highly qualified specialists from the country;
- The concept of “Kazakhstani – labor migrant” acquires stability;
- Kazakhstan is losing the fight for highly skilled labor resources, but remains attractive to lower-skilled labor migrants.
In the past few years, the topic of emigration from Kazakhstan has attracted increasing public attention. The root cause of increased interest in the topic of emigration from Kazakhstan has become a steady (over the past six years) increase in the negative migration balance. Thus, in 2018, the migration balance in comparison with 2015 has increased by 2 times, and in comparison with 2012 – by 20 times (see Fig. 1). According to the Statistics Committee of the MNE RK, since 2012, almost 230 thousand people have irrevocably left the country, including almost 42 thousand people in 2018. The fact that Kazakhstan has become a leader in the Eurasian Union in terms of migration outflow also causes concern. The second place is occupied by Armenia (the migration balance is 18,500 people), and the third place is taken by Kyrgyzstan (the migration balance is 5,390 people). Whereas Russia and Belarus, by contrast, are experiencing a migratory inflow (see Figure 2). Relying to quantity indicators, of course, it is possible to draw conclusion of dramatic nature of emigration in the country which loses annually more than 20 000 people. But objectively, the process of emigration does not have any significant effect on the demographic indicators of the population in Kazakhstan. In Kazakhstan, there is no threat of depopulation and aging of the nation, as, for example, in Latvia, where demographers predict that by 2050 the proportion of people over 65 will reach 60%. The increase in population in the country happens due to natural growth. The balance of migration (-29,109 people) in Kazakhstan is 10 times less than the natural increase in the population of the country (238,230 people). Moreover, even in the years when a positive balance of migration was observed in Kazakhstan (2004-2011), the migration outflow remained at the level of 20-30 thousand people annually. What is the risk of emigration for the country then? According to Irina Chernykh, Chief Researcher at Kazakhstan Institute of Strategic Studies (KazISS) under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, – following global migration trends, one should abandon the understanding of migration in a negative or positive light, and consider it as a natural (economic) process that does not have either negative or positive side. In world practice, an understanding of migration as a “labor force export” has been formed – migrants are considered as a commodity, the main characteristic of which is its quality indicators (professional skills and competences). Therefore, competition for qualified and highly qualified human resources is intensifying not only among developed countries, but also rapidly developing countries. In this context, two aspects of emigration are becoming more important: the qualitative characteristics of emigrants from Kazakhstan and the attractiveness (competitiveness) of Kazakhstan as an employer country. Qualitative characteristics of emigrants from Kazakhstan Studies has shown that emigration from Kazakhstan has not only a certain (historically established) ethnicity – according to official statistics, most often representatives of three ethnic groups area leaving the country – Russians, Germans and Ukrainians. At the same time, emigration has acquired a specific age. It is safe to say that not just Europeans and Slavs leave the country, but economically active people are leaving and taking away their minor children with them – 25% of the total emigrants’ number (see Fig.3). According to a population survey conducted by a Public Foundation “Center for Social and Political Studies” “Strategiya ” in January 2019, every second of those who express their intention to emigrate from the country is between the ages of 25 and 44. In 2017, people with higher education made up 29.9% (11,290 people) out of the total number who left Kazakhstan, that is, almost every third emigrant had a higher education. At the same time, out of total number of those who entered the country, only every sixth had a higher education – 17.5%. The results of a population survey, confirm the given statistics. ¾ Kazakhstan citizens who plan to move out of the country have a professional education: every third (33%) has a higher education, and almost every second (44%) has a secondary special education. Moreover, there is a tendency for the outflow of highly qualified specialists from the country. According to Ludmila Belova, director of recruiting company “Smart Solution Personal”, in 2018, while searching for a financial director for transnational company, they faced a situation where out of 15 candidates, 40% mentioned that they are no longer in Kazakhstan or consider leaving, therefore, they are not ready to deal with work in the country. The northern regions of Kazakhstan have faced a different situation, when their former specialists after emigration occupied high rank positions in the regional administrations of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation or at Russian enterprises, thereby confirming their status as highly skilled and competitive employees. According to experts, educational migration possesses a serious problem for Kazakhstan. Based on various sources, 70-85 thousand students from Kazakhstan study in foreign universities. And this number is increasing every year. At the same time, the question of returning after graduation remains open. Retrieved from the youth organization AIESEC in 2018, 42% of graduates changed the status of a student to work visa. According to the figures of the focus group studies, among those who intend to go abroad for studies, both young people and their parents most often stick to the “study-permanent residence” strategy. According to a survey conducted by the Kazakhstan research organization BRIF Research Group as part of a study on youth trends (summer 2017), about 42% of Kazakhstan citizens aged 15 to 29 years plan to either go abroad for studies or go for a permanent residence or both at the same time. Among those who are planning to study abroad, almost 70% would like to stay in that country in the future. Northern and industrial regions, such as Pavlodar, East Kazakhstan, Karaganda regions, are subject to greater emigration pressure, and the southern regions of the country are to a lesser extent.
- It is necessary to reconsider approaches for studying migration issues. First, accept it as a natural economic process. Secondly, use economic and socio-psychological approaches to the study of human behavior in the analysis of migration processes.
- According to experts, emigration issues do not require a special state policy. Changes in migration policy will not have the desired effect, since the problem is a systemic one. The main attention of the state should be directed to addressing issues related to improving the economic and financial climate in the country, developing human capital and improving the image of the country for internal audience.
- The creation of a positive image of the country for life, study and work, and the consolidation of this image at the level of socio-psychological attitudes, is of great importance to the citizens of Kazakhstan.
- It is necessary to put in order the system of statistical accounting of migration processes. In the absence of official statistics or mistrust on them, there is a risk of different interpretations and discussions, speculations and manipulation of statistical indicators. Statistical data should be in open access, which will allow experts and scientists to analyze data and build forecasts for decision-making.
- Also, according to experts, it is necessary to assess the regulatory impact of measures taken by the state earlier on migration issues and the development of society in the social and economic spheres.
- If we talk about the so-called competition for people, then, according to experts, the state does not need to be dispersed on all age groups, but concentrate its efforts on the youth segment. The most promising direction is considered to work with the younger generation up to 15 years old. Among young people over 15, support should be provided to those who have accumulated certain experience, talent, ambition, etc. – their share, as a rule, does not exceed 10-15%. In other words, these are the people who are now referred to as a creative class and who can create high added value.
This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project implemented with the financial support of the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial or donor.
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