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Spirited Away by Coronavirus: Far Eastern Federal District risks being left without workers

Due to the closure of borders at the construction and agricultural facilities of the Far East there will be no one to work

The quotas for attracting foreign workers allocated to the Russian regions have been canceled due to the spread of the coronavirus; entry to foreign citizens from any country for employment is limited. Because of this, the implementation of many investment projects in the Far East was in jeopardy, and there will simply be no one to work at construction and agricultural facilities with the onset of an active period of activity.

Spirited Away by Coronavirus: Far Eastern Federal District risks being left without workers

Remnants of the Middle Kingdom

Significant losses in terms of labor migrants began two years ago, with the imposition of sanctions on the DPRK - in the Far Eastern Federal District a significant flow of North Korean workers, who traditionally worked in construction and in the fields, gradually “disappeared”. In February this year, with the development of coronavirus, Chinese workers were completely banned from entering.

In different regions of the Far East, the situation is different, moreover, it is easy to notice that the Chinese and Koreans are especially not enough for infrastructure projects - such as those announced by the president of reconstruction and construction of 40 airfields in the Far Eastern Federal District.

The Agency for Employment and Migration Policy of the Kamchatka Territory noted that, despite the low level of registered unemployment (1,5%), in some sectors of the economy there is a shortage of local labor resources, and the attraction of foreign workers remains inevitable, mainly to vacancies, which have difficult working conditions and are unattractive for the local population. In 2019, 2 foreigners arrived on the peninsula for the purpose of work. The quota of the region for attracting foreign workers was 762 people, most of the places were allocated for two investment projects: the construction of a hotel in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and the airport complex in Yelizovo. Moreover, in connection with the restrictions on entry, it was the Chinese who did not have any problems - annually they come to work in the region no more than 637.

But in Buryatia this year it was planned to hire 901 Chinese - 83% accounted for by builders. Moreover, according to local officials, the restriction of entry for foreign workers does not have a significant impact on the labor market of the republic, because the share of such workers in the structure of employees is only 2,2%.

In the Magadan Region in 2020, a quota for workers from the PRC was allocated in the amount of 469 people. Who should replace them in a small region with a population of 140 thousand, despite the fact that employers as a whole lack almost three thousand people, it was difficult for the Ministry of Labor to explain. Employers of the Chukotka Autonomous Region, in principle, do not involve citizens of the PRC in their labor activity.

At the beginning of the year, 11 thousand Chinese worked in the Primorsky Territory. There are many projects for which foreign workers are attracted out of quotas, according to the decisions of the supervisory boards of the territories of priority development. New large production complexes are being built in the Nadezhdinskaya, Mikhailovskaya TOP. 900 Chinese people work in the Big Stone TOP at the construction of the Zvezda shipyard. In addition to construction, many people in the PRC are engaged in trade, agriculture, catering, the services sector, and the tourist industry.



Now many projects have stopped, and resource owners can curtail them.

“The main activity that we carry out is animal husbandry and dairy production. Chinese experts came to exchange experiences, about 70 people in previous years, ”says Artur Vzdykhanko, head of the joint Chinese-Russian agricultural enterprise from the EAO.

According to him, the closure of the borders affected the enterprise quite strongly. There were plans for the construction of a livestock complex and a dairy plant, and the cultivation of oats and barley. Until 2025, it was planned to reach full capacity, but had to stop. The current work is going on as before, and development plans are shifted by a year.

“While we are working without the help of Chinese experts. Ways to resolve the personnel issue are being resolved; local residents will be able to replace Chinese workers this year. Equipment, materials, seeds - all this is there. But we cannot realize development and our future plans without citizens of the PRC. It is difficult to invest money from Chinese investors: in technology, in the exchange of experience. Chinese specialists should be in place and regulate processes on their part, ”says Arthur Vzdykhanko.

However, the authorities often find themselves in a difficult situation: both investors and foreign workers. According to the head of the sales department of Agrofresh LLC Sergey Yurchenko, Chinese citizens who worked in the Far East but left for China will not be able to return to Russia. However, those whose visas were drawing to a close, the regional authorities allowed them to be extended so that people could stay and not be tried to extradite them.

Now the Chinese workers, who did not have time to return to their homeland before the coronavirus, continue to work on the construction sites of the Zvezda SSC. At the same time, residents of the city of Bolshoi Kamen note that workers from the Middle Kingdom began to rarely appear on the streets and in shops.



Meanwhile, China has long been not the main source of labor in the Far Eastern Federal District; it is mainly supplied by the CIS countries and the EAEU. In 2017, Uzbekistan and Russia concluded an intergovernmental agreement on organizational recruitment, according to which a draft presidential grant is being implemented in Primorsky Krai to organize the recruitment of specialists necessary for the region’s economy in Uzbekistan.

According to statistics from the Migration Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the Primorsky Territory, in 2019, 138 people arrived from the CIS from the CIS, which is 069% more than in 15,7. Most (2018%) are citizens of Uzbekistan - 77, of which 106 people entered Russia for the purpose of working. Of the EAEU countries, whose citizens enjoy the same rights in employment as Russians, 221 people have accumulated. There are many visitors from Southeast Asia.

“Thanks to the advanced technologies mastered at construction sites in Japan, the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, and the Middle East, specialists from Vietnam demonstrate professional growth. Qualified selection of job seekers in special centers has been established, with the subsequent formation of teams, employers are guaranteed to receive professional workers. There is labor surplus India. In 2019, 331 citizens of this country worked in the economy of Primorye, ”said Sergey Pushkarev, head of the Consulting Center for Migration and Interethnic Relations, a non-governmental organization.

According to him, the neighboring Chinese and Koreans, in principle, would be replaced by whom. However, the pandemic dramatically changed the situation. By order of the Russian government of March 16, 2020, the entry of foreign citizens into the country for the purpose of labor activity is temporarily restricted. The registration and issuance of permits for attraction and use, work permits for foreign workers were also suspended.

“Mostly foreigners were engaged in concrete work: Chinese, Vietnamese, North Koreans, Uzbeks,” explains Vladimir Isakov, chairman of the Association of Developers of the Vladivostok City Agglomeration. - Russian teams on casting a "monolith" - zero. The same goes for landscaping, road construction, where, for example, the Armenians worked. All these are risk zones in construction. In other areas, there are no such problems. Install facades, glazing, pull electrics, plumbing, local can. It turns out that the Russians work mainly on jobs that require some kind of qualification. Now construction companies are trying to gradually replace them, importing Uzbeks from Moscow, Udmurtia and so on. Of course, the problem is, because there are few of these people, and even the residents of the CIS will have permission to end sometime. Not the fact that contractors will be able to fulfill their obligations on monolithic facilities. In general, fewer people are building slower. While construction is ongoing, we have not stopped, but problems may soon begin. ”   

In principle, in all Far Eastern regions, authorities indicate that work has been organized to replace foreign workers with Russians. It is being conducted, including pointwise, for example, with developers and even for specific enterprises of strategic importance, such as the shipyard Zvezda. The question is, theoretically, given the current level of unemployment, a certain number of vacancies vacated by foreigners can be closed with local resources. But if the seller can be taught in short-term courses, then the welder needs qualifications developed over the years. Sergei Pushkarev believes that there is still a way out of a difficult situation.

“Now no workforce from abroad can come to Russia, those foreigners who were already here remained. The question is very serious - we can remain without labor at all for an indefinite time, ”the scientist notes. “But even when the borders open, the problem will not be solved quickly.” The procedure for registration of foreign labor takes up to two months. Previously issued quotas have been reset, enterprises will have to receive them, issue work permits. Even obtaining a patent in practice takes about a month. ”

According to him, a project is being prepared now, according to which it is proposed to use those foreigners who live in the country, pull them out of the shadows, legalize them in order to survive until the borders are opened.

“There are a lot of foreign citizens in the Far East - from the near abroad, from the same Uzbekistan, many“ visa-free ”are here illegally. We need to extend people's stay, grant patents, work permits and so on, ”said Sergey Pushkarev.



It is clear that the shortage of personnel is superimposed on the whole on the unfavorable world economic background. The economic consequences of the developing situation as a whole are difficult to predict, they can be the most unexpected and unpredictable, says President of the Dobroflot Group of Companies Alexander Efremov.

“Restrictions on the movement of foreign workers in the country are not yet the most significant negative impact on enterprises, after the ban two years ago on the attraction of North Koreans. For our company, foreign labor is not a significant factor in labor productivity; quarantine restrictions imposed on the movement of people across borders affect business much more seriously. The Far East is very dependent on China for all types of support, and any restrictions on movement greatly delay the development of local businesses. We cannot invite specialists to set up complex equipment or repairs. Dobroflot's specialists and crew members are not allowed to travel to Asian countries to provide ship repairs, product inspections, and other business contacts. This is a real problem that inevitably leads to the loss of the already low productivity and organization of labor in the Far East, "the head of the Far Eastern fish processing holding points out.

In his opinion, there will inevitably be an increase in prime cost and prices, loss of competitiveness of goods and services. Both within the company and at the level of market interaction, the obligation of counterparties and the performance discipline are sharply reduced - everything that has been developed for so long and was called the business environment. Now everything is written off to the crisis due to the coronavirus.

September 29: current information on coronavirus in the Far East
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