Short-term migration: Armenia’s socioeconomic dependence on labor migration
The third wave of globalization - an era where the world is more interconnected than at any given point in history, where networks can be created and extended with the help of a mouse click, where transnational goods become accessible on a large scale, and capital flows have been developed. It is this phenomenon of globalization that plays a fundamental role in global migration patterns, enabling millions of people to leave their countries of origin in hope for a better life. Yet, with rapidly growing numbers of people on the move, caused by economic hardship, cultural disputes, natural disasters or war, events like the European Refugee crisis occur and have an immediate impact on demographics as much as the public attitudes towards migrants. The social relations between native’s and migrants are affected by concerns about possible effects on the cultural or economic national impacts (Hainmueller and Hopkins 1ff.). Consequently, the topic of migration is one of the most heatedly discussed ones worldwide. In 2013, approximately two hundred thirty-two million people were living temporarily or permanently in another country (Lee and Guadagno 2). 190,000 people alone are displaced Balkans, indicating that also in the post-Soviet states the topic of migrants and migration is of high interest (Global Estimates 2015: People Displaced By Disasters 30). Ever since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 continual patterns of migration processes in post-Soviet states have been witnessed. Next to increasing urbanization, the issue of short- and long-term outward migration has received growing attention of many scholars. While some scholars view migration as a threat to the economic situation in the home countries, leading to population and an overall economic decline, others argue that there are also positive consequences: of incoming capital flows, and entrepreneurship (Heghine and Poghosyan). On the basis of these arguments, this essay will examine the socioeconomic consequences of outward migration in the post-Soviet country Armenia, arguing that the economic dependency on labor migration to Russia has severe effects on economic and social structures. Firstly, this essay will provide a short country profile, followed by a detailed overview about the most recent migration developments with the regard to the dissolution of the USSR. Then, Armenia’s dependency on short-term labor migration will be researched in order to conclude by discussing the difficulties married women in rural areas face while their husbands work abroad.
Armenian migrations trends since the collapse of the Soviet Union
Armenia is a small landlocked country in the southern Caucasus situated between Georgia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Iran and has been highly affected by population flows ever since the late 1980s. Under the Soviet Union's central economy, in an effort to obtain raw materials and energy resources from other Soviet States, Armenia spawned and grew an industrial sector for the purpose of providing manufactured goods including machinery, defense electronics and textiles to other Soviet countries (1997-2001.state.gov 1). This industrial accomplishment was lost with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, when Armenia was forced to make a transition from a planned economy to market economy. The introduction of capitalism meant an economic collapse, contributing to inflation and the massive reduction of energy resources (1997-2001.state.gov 2). The economic downturn that was present throughout the former Soviet States, led to mass unemployed, a decrease of living standards, a decline of life expectancy, an increase in corruption, and a rise in poverty. Patterns of mass emigration emerged, lasting until today. However, though Armenia is an “outward country”, meaning more emigration than immigration is detected, there were likewise incidents of immigration present: at the end of the Soviet Union, Armenia encountered a high number of rufugees due to the military conflict with Azerbaijan over the Armenian control of Nagorno-Karabakh (1997-2001.state.gov 1). 360,000 ethnic Armenians arrived in in their home country from Azerbaijan between 1988 and 1993 to escape the conflict (UNHCR 1), influencing current Armenia’s migration laws.
In relation to the transitory displacement assumption emigration outflows nevertheless are prominent. One has to distinguish in that case between the first wave of migration, the so-called “ethnic” migration and the second wave, the emigration for better economic opportunities and higher wages. While the term ethnic migration is ultimately linked to the transition period, describing the leaving of the country – Armenia - by ethnic minorities in order to escape discrimination in a newly arranged nationalist society in the 1990s, economic migration on the hand is a relatively recent phenomenon. It has been present ever since the early 2000s. When observing destination countries’ figures, it is evident that up to 643,823 Armenian migrants resided abroad within a narrow time frame around 2012; or, statistically speaking, around 19.7% of the total Armenian population (Ghazaryan and Tolosa 1). Here, the difference between permanent and seasonal emigration has to be taken into account: permanent migrants often leave the country to reunite with their family members abroad, and in the first instance, leave to the United States and the Europe Union. Short-term migration in the Armenian case per contra typically takes place dominantly in terms of labor migration from Armenia to former Soviet states. It is also notable that up to seventy-five percent of seasonal workers leave to the Russian Federation (MPC Team 3). The majority of them being male, they emigrate from Armenia for a certain time each year in order to earn a higher income and support their families in Armenia in form remittances. An advantage in this situation is that Armenian citizens are not required to have a special visa to work in Russia due to the bilateral agreements on labor migration with other CIS partners a mutual recognition of diplomas and qualification was implied (MPC Team 5)
Economic dependency on Russia and social effects
Short-term migration and, most importantly, seasonal labor migration plays a key role in Armenian economy, but also implies a number of negative demographic consequences for the country. The sending of remittances through the bank system, increase welfare gains in the countries of origin, in the form of increasing incomes, expenditures and usage of social services by private households. Remittances find their way back into economic circulation and enable opportunities for business expansion and investment. However, with 89% of the remittances coming from the Russian Federation Armenia’s economy’s dependency on Russia is undeniable (Ghazaryan and Tolosa 1). Recent studies show a distinct connection between the Russian GDP and its impact on remittances, making the Armenian economy greatly “vulnerable to the evolution of the Russian economy” (Ghazaryan and Tolosa 7). This may sometimes be perceived as the direct consequence of a large amount of remittances sent back to Armenia by short-term, seasonal employees working in the Russian Federation. Additionally, this dependency on Russia has created numerous problems in Armenian society, especially for women and children. As a majority of men are frequently absent from society because they are working abroad, Armenia is experiencing a gender imbalance. Armenia’s rural areas are most notably affected by this, where poverty remains an issue and whole families depend, though they are working, on the husband’s remittances. In these villages the phenomenon of “second families” adds another factor of fright to the lives of many Armenian wives, since it has been a common pattern that seasonal workers start a new family abroad (Buckley 241f).
While the Armenian economic situation improved since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Armenia even counts as one of the more effective Eastern European countries, the influence of migration, especially in form of labor migration continues. With a decreasing population and an increasing economic dependency on the Russian Federation, the emigration of Armenian citizens in order to earn a living abroad remains a topic of controversy. Armenia is benefitting on the one hand from short-term labor migration, specifically in terms of the immediate reduction of poverty through the transfer of remittances, growing expenditure, and a slowly increasing economic growth, on the other hand one can witness a tendency to be affected by external shocks and gender related problematics within the county. One may wonder if Armenia is capable of losing its dependency on Russia; Armenia’s economy is to a large extend based on remittances and so growth is limited and therefore more vulnerable and perhaps less wealthy.
- Quote paper
- Laura Höner (Author), 2015, On the Socioeconomic Dependence on Labor Migration in Armenia, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/453228