Updated at 11:50,16-10-2017

Why Belarusians emigrate?

Ryhor Astapenia, BelarusDigest

On 12 July, Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich proposed to introduce a tax on non-working Belarusians.

Although the official statistics show that the official unemployment rate stands at 0.5%, the prime minister acknowledged that 445,000 Belarusians did not work - about 9% of working-age population. The authorities avoid talking about it officially, but everyone in Belarus is aware that most of these people work abroad.

The majority of migrants from Belarus find jobs in Russia. Although most Belarusian workers perform low skilled work in Russia, the brain drain is becoming a threat to the country. People who are well-paid by Belarusian standards and have higher education and pro-European moods increasingly want to leave Belarus.

According to a recent study of the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies (BISS), 35.6 of Belarusians think of emigration. If all these people went away, the population of Belarus would be reduced from 9.5 to 6.1 millions, Belarus would lost its youth, business and public elites.


Who Leaves Belarus

Belarusian authorities decided to deal with people informally employed abroad, as the state received no taxes from them. At the same time, families of Belarusian migrant workers employed abroad enjoy some cheap social services of the Belarusian system. For example, the monthly payment for kindergarten is just US$10 or liter of gasoline A-95 is US$0.88. However, the Belarusian authorities prefer not to emphasise the fact that migrant workers sent to their homes about $913mln last year.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) announced bigger numbers than the Prime Minister Myasnikovich. IOM`s data shows that up to 1.2 mln Belarusian citizens work abroad. Belarus keeps no official statistics or independent studies on how much Belarusians leave Belarus, where and whom they are working for.

However, many Belarusians privately know a few people who went to Russia and earn for their bread by heavy physical labor. Belarusian media often convey the deaths of Belarusian workers in Russia. In general, Belarus has an awkward perspective to become a "second Moldova" - a country that supplies cheap labor force.

The research conducted by BISS shows that the typical Belarusian migrant-worker is a divorced man aged between 30 and 44. He has secondary or vocational education and lives in Minsk or in small towns in Mahiliou and Viciebsk regions.


Who Wants to Leave Belarus

In addition to people in low-skilled jobs, young people leave Belarus en masse. According to BISS, only 13.7% of young people want to stay in Belarus, either to study or to work, or for a permanent residence in another state.

The youth sees no economic prospects in today's Belarus and no chances for political change. Although going to Russia is the easiest route, the West also became a considerable destination point. If you look at the Belarusian-Polish border crossing Brest-Terespol, a significant part of the travellers are young people who go to study in Poland. According to the Polish educational foundation Perspectives, 2,397 Belarusians study in Poland. It is difficult to find concrete figures how many Belarusians studied in Poland five or ten years ago, but the figure was definitely lower.

The study mentioned above also demonstrates another dangerous trend. People with economic education and higher education in general, as well as Internet users have expressed a strong desire to leave Belarus. 42,2% of people with higher education want to leave Belarus.

In fact, a significant number of mid-level managers want to leave Belarus. For example those who are on the same positions in Moscow can earn much more. Although emigration for these people remains a heavy damping off, many of them wish to go through the changes to leave Belarus.

Why Belarusians emigrate?

data: yandex.ru

According to the BISS study, many businessmen also want to leave Belarus. Some of them recognise that Belarus remains a more corrupt country than even Russia. While in Russia, thanks to privatisation, corruption in business has decreased, in Belarus bureaucrats still manage large state-owned enterprises and prevent the development of Belarusian business.

Although the authorities of Belarus carried out administrative reform government employees still earn little. In such circumstances, state officials find themselves in emigration or working in Belarus for Russian business. Last year former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus Siarhei Martynau was appointed a special representative of the Russian oil company "Russneft" in Belarus.

Many other officials leave for Russia. For example two former foreign ministers (Ivan Antanovich and Ural Latypov) immigrated to Russia and two former heads of the KGB (Leanid Yerin and Siarhei Matskievich) were among many other former ministers and senior officials leaving for Moscow.


Turn Off the Lights at the Train Station

When a financial crisis exploded in Belarus back in 2011, many Belarusians joked that the last one who would leave Belarus should turn off the lights at the train station.

Two years after the crisis, the flow of migration decreased, but a lot of people still retained the mood to émigré. According to BISS, every third want to émigré. Moreover, 15% want to leave for permanent residence. The idea to "shove off" remains especially popular among the young people, who have no particular social contracts with the state and the deep attachment in society.

Belarusian business owners are still willing to leave, but they cannot. The Belarusian market remains familiar to them, the competition there is not so high. For them, it is easier to stay in Belarus with Lukashenka and bureaucrats rather than move to another country and build their business from the beginning.

However, the Belarusian business managers, who do not own businesses, are ready to leave. For them, emigration remains a new challenge that has the potential to bring salaries several times higher than in Belarus. Average salary in Moscow is about $1,500, while in Minsk it remains two times lower.

However, the Belarusian youth grows like grass through asphalt. For example, a 22-year-old lady recently became the director of football club "Partisan", and another 20-year-old girl opened the third hostel in Minsk for the year. The only hope for Belarus is that not all young people leave.

The authorities should get the point that Belarus need economic reforms and to attract foreign investors. Without new innovative enterprises and new jobs Belarusians themselves may become the main export of the country.