According to official data, in the last 10 years more than 321 thousand people left Kazakhstan. This number equals the population size in the town of Semei, where 323,199 people live as of January 1, 2019. Over 25 per cent of emigrants are people in the age of 15 to 28 years old.
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The emigration in Kazakhstan has significantly changed in the last four years. In the first quarter of 2019, 8.4 thousand people left the country, which is 22 per cent more than last year. However, the number of people is growing slowly. The key factor, according to experts, is the growing birth rate – this indicator is steadily growing.
According to political analyst and principal officer of KISI, Irina Chernykh, it’s rather difficult to highlight the main cause of migration. As a rule, this is a combination of various causes and factors, whose combinations can vary in each case.
“Also, when we speak of the causes of migration, we should take into account social, educational, financial and other statuses of an emigrant. For example, self-fulfilment, certain social environment, level of personal comfort, etc. would be significant for a representative of the so-called creative class. However, these are the things that a young man, whose key cause of migration is getting any job, would never think about,” the expert said.
Also, she emphasised that political factor had its impact on migration processes. In the late 80s until the early 2000s, Slavonic and German people were leaving Kazakhstan in great numbers, at the same time, ethnic Kazakhs were returning to their historical homeland. For 27 years of independence, just over a million of oralman [returnee] returned to the country.
“If we compare the statistical data of migration during the independence of Kazakhstan, in 1994, nearly 450 thousand people left the country. The losses from migration that Kazakhstan faces today are nothing compared to the early 1990s,” Irina Chernykh said.
The expert in international migration, Elena Sadovskaya, said another cause of migration among the population of Kazakhstan was political stagnation, which was obvious for many years. In particular, this is seen in the absence of democratic institutions, or to be more precise, their imitation; violation of human rights, including the freedom of speech, conscience and religious freedom, freedom of protest and assembly; non-observance of the principle of equality before law; lack of the right to vote and to be elected during fair, transparent and competitive elections.
“An opportunity of political self-expression and participation in management, in particular, via local governments is as important for a person as professional self-fulfilment,” the expert said.
Also, Sadovskaya placed special emphasis on the national policy, which is usually not discussed in Kazakhstan. According to her, it does not provide ethnic minorities with equal free higher education; neither does it provide academic mobility via national programmes to them.
“It hinders the successful professional development and career, including in politics. Ethnic minorities amount to one third of the population, and they are represented in the executive and middle management rather symbolically,” Sadovskaya said.
Besides, the return of the Ukrainians, Germans, Jews, Tatars, Belarusians, etc. to their historical homeland is also an intention of earlier deported ethnic groups to consolidate as nation in one historical area.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the ethnic composition of the population of Kazakhstan has changed dramatically. Experts have recorded a key trend now – the replacement of Slavonic ethnic groups with Turkic ones.
Since 1991, the country has had positive migration balance, i.e. more people arriving in the country than leaving. It is explained by the growing number of Kazakh people, who used to live abroad, arriving in the republic. This situation was observed until 2012. After that, the migration balance in the country has never been positive.
Currently, Kazakhstan is the leader among EAEU countries by the number of emigrants.
The main centre of attraction for migrants from Kazakhstan is Russia. Knowledge of Russian language contributes to the migration of people – the Eurasian Economic Union and repatriation programmes allow ethnic Russians to get back to their homeland.
The second popular country for migrants from Kazakhstan is Germany, where 2,685 persons left for in 2018. The third popular country is Belarus, followed by the United States.
Whereas the number of emigrants is increasing, the number of immigrants in Kazakhstan is reducing every year. In the last three years, 14 thousand persons arrive in the republic in average per year. For comparison, Kazakhstan accepted over 42 thousand immigrants in 2010.
In 2018, political analysts held a survey “Migration moods among young Kazakhstan professionals” to understand the motives of Kazakhstanis leaving the country. The researchers surveyed 50 young professionals under 40 years old, who had studied or trained abroad. 35 respondents live in Kazakhstan, 15 live abroad.
In the survey, every third respondent said “yes” and the same number said “no” to the question if they want to leave. The remaining respondents said they may leave in certain conditions (if they are offered a job, if they continue the research, etc.).
Only 8.3 per cent of young people living abroad said they would return home. 50 per cent said they would not return, and 41.7 per cent said they would return only if they are offered something interesting in Kazakhstan.
Experts emphasise that the significant portion of migrants are able-bodied persons who have higher education. According to the observations of analyst Irina Chernykh, the increasing emigration trend is a self-maintained process: the more people leave the country, the more people also start thinking about leaving the country.
This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project.