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Government seeks to abolish migrant worker quotas

Published time: March 31, 2014 09:19
Reuters/Denis Sinyakov

Reuters/Denis Sinyakov

The Russian government commission has approved a new scheme for hiring migrant workers, switching from current company quotas to an unlimited "patent" system.

The move is opposed by the Labor Ministry, but the government commission has supported it nevertheless, according to the Izvestia daily. The new plan has been developed by the Federal Migration Service and it allows not only major businesses but also small companies and even private entrepreneurs to attract workers from a broad on a much simpler basis.

Once the new rules are passed by parliament and signed into law, any company or businessman intending to hire foreigners would simply need to buy a fixed-price patent from local authorities. It will be valid for a period between one and three months with a possible extension to a year. Federal authorities will set the minimum price for a patent but regional officials will be allowed to increase it.

The sponsors of the bill say that the government would be able to vary the patent price and regulate the flow of migrant workers effectively replacing more rigid quotas. They point out that the patent system allows many illegal migrants to move from the shadows and this increases the amount of collected taxes.

The opponents, headed by the Labor Ministry, warn that the abolition of quotas could lead to serious tensions in the labor market already hit by stalling economic development.

The patent system has existed since 2007 but currently it is only applied to foreigners who are allowed a visa-free entry into Russia and who work individually in the service sector – as cleaners, nurses, babysitters etc. The price or tax for one month work is 1000 roubles or slightly under $30.

The quota for foreign workers in 2014 was 1.6 million people (this does not include those who work under patents) – slightly lower than 1.7 million in 2013.The companies applying for quotas must pay 2000 roubles (about $60) for single working permit and also must prove that no Russian citizens are interested in the vacancies that would be filled.

The Federal Migration Service expects the new rules to allow for the legalization of several million foreigners who work in Russia without registration. According to agency statistics, the current number of employed foreigners in the country is about 10.6 million – many times more than the 2014 quota.