Regional Director Analyses Future Migration Trends at St Petersburg Labour Forum

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St Petersburg
Published: 
Wednesday, April 21, 2021

How will employment recover from the fundamental social and economic disruption of the past year and what will international migration look like in the post COVID world?

Those were the questions posed at the start of a keynote speech by Regional Director Renate Held during the fifth St Petersburg Labour Forum held in Russia’s second city this week.

Ms Held, speaking by video link on behalf of IOM Director General Antonio Vitorino, noted that our recent experience underscores the importance of well-functioning systems of international mobility to societies, economies, and supply-chains.

“When international mobility suddenly seized up last March, many governments rushed to put in a patchwork of exemptions to allow essential workers to cross borders. Here in the Russian Federation, and elsewhere, we have seen labour shortages in sectors that are heavily reliant on foreign workers such as agriculture and construction”, she said.

Ms Held told the distinguished audience that the pace of migrants returning home, particularly from Western Europe to Eastern Europe, had accelerated over the past 12 months. While many had returned because they had lost their jobs, many thousands had taken advantage of the boom in remote working.

This trend has the potential to alter work as we know it forever, she said It has reversed decades of out-migration and is creating new dynamics and opportunities for economic growth in countries and regions that have long been suffering from ageing and declining populations.

This does not mark an end for international labour migration, Ms Held stated. “Most work in healthcare, agriculture, manufacturing, and many other sectors cannot be done remotely. Additionally, demographic shifts in many of the world’s wealthiest countries have created an imbalance in the supply and demand of labour that can only be met through policy interventions that include migration.”

She listed some of the innovates that IOM had put in place to guarantee “good practices in policy and programming that can efficiently match supply and demand for workers” such as a Global Skills Partnership on Migration being established in partnership with the ILO, UNESCO, and workers and employers’ organizations.

In the Russian Federation, IOM has just embarked on an ambitious research project to better understand the dynamics of labour migration between the Russian Federation and Central Asia. The research will identify opportunities for establishing more efficient recruitment systems that better meet the needs of workers and employers.

“This is a first step in our longer-term plans to work with relevant government and private sector stakeholders in the Russian Federation and Central Asia to build safe, orderly, and efficient labour recruitment systems in the region,” Ms Held concluded.