One of the new coronavirus infection pandemic side effects are the Moldovan labor migrants who return home from Europe. Isn’t this that the Moldovan authorities dreamed of for a long time? What will the return migration splash lead to and is the country ready for its consequences, Marina Dragalin the RTA expert analyzed
Marina DRAGALIN, RTA:
It is well known that scale migration from Moldova reaches tremendous values. For the past 15 years, the Republic has been at the top of countries that are losing population — during the independent existence of the state, migration “ate” a third of the active labor force. According to statistics, the average of 100 people leaves Moldova every day in search of a better life and that is more than 30 thousand per year.
It is not surprising that the return of migrants is an invariable attribute of populist political programs. At the same time, despite the measures taken, including in the framework of international projects, no special progress was noted in returning citizens to their homeland. The story of returning part of Moldovan population of Romanian citizenship only gave the outflow a new impetus.
Although migration in principle, has a number of positive effects, Moldova is mainly facing its negative consequences. It got to the point that the Moldovan authorities predicted a serious labor shortage for roads construction this year and took measures to facilitate immigration – the legal framework was updated and the visa regime was simplified. To date, it has been possible to attract about seven thousand foreign labor migrants.
However, it is with good reason that they are advised to be careful in their desires – because they can come true. And it happened, and this did not even require special efforts from authorities. An increase in the incidence of new coronavirus infection in Europe has led to rapid return migration. Since the beginning of the epidemic, tens of thousands of Moldovans have returned to their country; mainly from Italy and France.
The epidemic growth on the territory of Moldova is still holding a stern grip on everyone. When the situation clears, the country will have to face the next problem, albeit not so acute but with much more long-term and detrimental consequences for the state system – with thousands of returning labor migrants.
The massive return of citizens raises a whole range of problems.
First of all, it is about employment. No matter how cynical it sounds, but the coronavirus, along with the lives of older Europeans, takes away the jobs of a third of Moldovan labor migrants. A vivid example is the first Moldovan citizen infected with coronavirus who returned home after her ward has died from COVID-19. Half of the Moldovan migrant workers are engaged in the construction industry which in the near future definitely does not plan to please with growth. There are jobs inside Moldova itself but they are often highly specialized, low paid or temporary.
The second problem is the significant reduction in remittances, which for several decades supported life in the country and made up about 20-25% of GDP. In 2019 alone, their volume from abroad in favor of individuals amounted to more than 1.22 billion US dollars. Jobs abroad are livelihood sources not only for labor migrants themselves but also for their relatives. Reducing the family budget will most severely affect the elderly and young. Elderly people with a drop within family income will not be able to get a proper level of medical care, food and accommodation (the notorious heating in winter), which will inevitably lead to higher mortality in the older age group. Young people will be forced to change plans for acquiring vocational or higher education for low-paying jobs, essentially closing the circle of poverty and migration. Taking into account the fact that in Moldova almost a quarter of population already lives below the poverty line, even according to the most optimistic forecasts the country’s population will have very difficult times.
Another important aspect of citizens’ return are the stressful loads on all state systems. In particular, arrivals will increase the “press” for already under-staffed medical and social personnel, will require additional expenses for pensions and benefits payment (for unemployment, for example). The health system will undergo the first strength-test in the coming month, when the epidemic in Moldova enters into full force.
The return of migrants, like an executioner’s ax brought to the country, is already impossible to stop, but one should try hard to change the path of its fall. And the Moldavian establishment will obviously have to alone cope with this task. A general economic recession amid pandemic, the situation on the oil market and local peripheral conflicts of major powers will clearly reduce the capabilities of the republic’s international partners.
Unfortunately, the Moldovan authorities have practically no time and opportunities to develop and ensure economic growth, especially in conditions of global quarantine. It is necessary to realize that there is practically no chance to fix something and it is time to move from populist statements and develop real and pragmatic measures to minimize the consequences of the whole events complex from January-March 2020.
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