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Pandemic reveals dependence of certain countries on high-qualified migrants, say experts

COVID-19 has had a powerful influence on the territorial mobility of the population both between countries and regions, and inside certain states, the research noted

MOSCOW, August 25. /TASS/. Experts from the Valdai Discussion Club concluded in a report presented on Wednesday that the pandemic spotlighted many countries’ reliance on both low-qualified and high-qualified migrant workers.

Leading Researcher at the Institute of Economic Forecasting of the Russian Academy of Sciences Dmitry Poletaev and Professor of Political Science at the Middle Tennessee State University Andrei Korobkov are the authors of the work dubbed ‘International Migration amid [the] Pandemic’.

COVID-19 has had a powerful influence on the territorial mobility of the population both between countries and regions, and inside certain states, the research noted. As a result, migration and migrant remittances shrank, with a concurrent surge of migrantophobia and xenophobia in the main hosting countries. Experts have drawn attention to these crisis events in recent years which have been linked to the politicization of migration in North America and Europe.

The pandemic highlighted the political importance of the migration issue, though its specific consequences have turned out to be quite contradicting and mixed - both from the viewpoint of the receiving countries and the migrants, the authors of the research said. "By strengthening xenophobia and anti-immigration sentiment in many receiving countries, as well as sharply reducing migration flows, the pandemic simultaneously led to a dramatic structural transformation of the labor market and has underscored the economic dependence of the countries of immigration on migrant workers. This crisis may lead to a substantial revision of the migrant policy in many receiving countries," they specified.

Particularly, analysts say in the report that the pandemic has demonstrated the importance of immigration regarding the factor of growth of the population and meeting the demand for the workforce, that is both low-qualified and high-qualified staff.

"As of March 2021, out of twenty countries with the highest COVID-19 infection rates, seven (the US, Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and the Czech Republic) rely on immigrants among medical personnel. For example, in Britain, the share of immigrants among doctors stands at 33%, while the figure for nurses is 22%. In the US, in early 2020, immigrants accounted for 16.4% of all healthcare staff (2.8 mln), including 28.2% of doctors and 15.3% of nurses," the report said.

Deferred risk for Russia

In Russia, the problem of lowering the level of migrantophobia rests on the fact that amid the mounting economic crisis and the search for responses to the pandemic-related challenges, migrants serve as a convenient target for radical politicians, "if the situation deteriorates dramatically, they may become a lightning rod to reduce social unrest," researchers warn.

During the pandemic in Russia an experimental migration regime was introduced, quite liberal for the extreme conditions of the pandemic, the authors of the report said. "On the other hand, the problem of the lack of comprehensive and stably-funded integration programs for migrants and the lack of institutionally established coalition of decision-makers in the migration sector, with Russian non-governmental organizations, still exist. Which means migrantophobia remains a deferred risk for Russia," the document said.