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Russian Communications Ministry wants 200,000 IT migrants

0 28 October 2013

In a bid to attract thousands of foreign IT-specialists to Moscow, the Communications Ministry is planning to change the current regulations governing migration for tech-specialists. 

The current law requires companies to offer foreign IT-specialists an annual salary in excess of 2 million rubles ($62,500), but that is to be halved.

The Communications Ministry hopes that the arrival of foreign workers, particularly from the former Soviet Union, will put an end to the job-hopping habits of the capital’s tech-specialists, who (it is claimed) often switch jobs more than once a year in pursuit of a higher salary. 

As further justification for the move, the Ministry argues that Russia’s tech universities are not supplying enough graduates to meet demand. Officials reckon that 350,000 more specialists will be needed by 2020, but between now and then universities will turn out just 150,000 qualified graduates. Furthermore, at present only half of tech-graduates choose to work in the field, exacerbating the staff-shortage faced by Russian tech companies. 

These arguments have, however, been called into question by experts, who claim that Moscow tech companies don’t face a staff shortage, and that if they did, they could easily find people from Russia’s regions or abroad willing to work remotely. They also point to recruiting agency statistics, which suggest that the demand for IT staff last year increased by just 7%, compared to 40% in the tourism sector, for example. 

Employers themselves also question the policy, arguing that it won’t make a huge difference, because there isn’t a shortage of IT-specialists and because these employees tend to earn more like $15,000 a year anyway. They say that the real problem is a lack of IT managers, capable of launching a new project. At present, individuals capable of doing so can earn in the region of $200,000 a year. 

Ilya Massukh, former Deputy Communications Minister and founder of the Information Democracy Fund, also opposes the idea. He points out that one of the principal goals of the Ministry’s “Information Society” program (of which the new policy is a part) is to provide qualified staff for the IT-sector, and he questions whether attracting migrants from the former Soviet Union is a viable way of doing this. In recent ratings, published by the International Telecommunications Union, Russia’s information society ranked 40th (down from 38th). However, it was ranked 23 for the quality of its professional tech-specialists, far higher than any of the other former Soviet republics. Massukh also claims that quality is more important than quality, and cites the examples of successful Russian companies like Yandex, ABBYY and Kaspersky Labs that have achieved great success with a small number of employees. 

Nikolay Kolomeytsev, from the Russian Parliament’s Committee for Work and Social Policy, doesn't like the idea either. He argues that “The Ministry has taken up an anti-state position, putting their own interests ahead of the country’s. As part of the Russian government, they ought to be thinking about Russian job seekers, not foreign ones. There’s a huge number of Russian IT-specialists in the regions and in Moscow who would jump at the chance to earn $30,000 a year, and it is the job of all government departments, including the Communications Ministry, to look after the interests of these Russian workers. Furthermore, decisions like this might prompt other sectors to demand a relaxing of immigration regulation, which would leave many more Russians out of work”.

Source: Izvestiya,

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