FEATURE STORY

A Closer Look at Migration as a Life Experience

August 5, 2013

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Conference on migration and remittances held in St. Petersburg highlights the challenges associated with migration in Europe and Central Asia, and the need to address them constantly.
  • The World Bank migration program (MIRPAL) in the region aims to help countries respond to policy, program, and institutional challenges.

Migration is about people - this could have been the motto for the recent annual conference of the MIRPAL (Migration and Remittance Peer Assisted Learning) network.

The conference was held in St. Petersburg in the Russian Federation, within the World Bank’s regional migration program in Europe and Central Asia (ECA). A wide and strong community of experts and practitioners from nine CIS countries exchanged their knowledge, skills and views on the challenges that come with migration, which are critical for countries to address right now.

MIRPAL is a community of migration and remittance practitioners and policymakers from ECA countries. This peer-learning network was officially launched in May 2010 at a conference in Moscow. A series of learning events organized prior to the May 2010 launching conference served as a foundation for the development of the network.

Many countries in the region have experienced increasing inflows from migrant worker remittances over the past several years. Economic growth – as well as poverty reduction achievements - in most of these countries has been intertwined with migration and remittance trends. The Bank has undertaken the challenge of helping countries throughout the region cope with ongoing issues associated with migration and remittances through both lending initiatives and migration policy improvement.

This year, discussions revolved around economic and social aspects of migrant people’s integration.

To begin with, labor migration was discussed jointly by economists and anthropologists for the first time at the conference, thanks to contributions from the European University at St. Petersburg. The purpose was to get a comprehensive picture of the integration motivations of labor migrants in Russia. On one hand, migrants are willing to improve their wellbeing in terms of the level of income, while on the other, the time spent in a destination country reshapes their individual life experience, often affecting their social status.

Open Quotes

Migration is not just (about) work. Migrants live their lives after the end of the working day -- they enjoy city attractions, build relationships, and communicate via the Internet. Close Quotes

Olga Brednikova
Sociologist from the Center of Independent Sociological Research in St. Petersburg

In other words, immigrants’ behavior patterns are not limited by economic motivation alone.

Destination countries often transform migrants' social status – but there are ways to get around such situations.

For example, a person qualified as a doctor may end up working a low- skilled job in a new country out of necessity. Still, this person could continue to pursue former professional activities by providing medical advice to the migrant community members informally, for example.

Job placement is crucial for economic integration capacities of immigrant workers. Therefore, organized recruitment continues to feature high on the agenda of policy-makers.

"Organized recruitment requires joint efforts of sending and receiving countries," said Elena Dunaeva, head of Federal Migration Service office in St. Petersburg. "Pre-departure training programs should be in the domain of a country of origin, while a destination country could ensure job placement through concrete employment offers supported by invitation letters issued by migration authorities."

Another feature of the MIRPAL conference was the case-study approach: St. Petersburg hosting the conference this year served as an example of good practice of integration efforts targeting immigrants. The city's Committee on Social Policies and Employment presented a recently adopted program "Migration" and highlighted the commitment of local authorities to a more regulated management of migration. The commitment was based on the understanding that migration is a challenging yet natural process to contend with, but one that provided tremendous development benefits.

Labor migration in the CIS region is acknowledged as beneficial for both sending and receiving countries. For more than three years now, the World Bank, IOM and UN Women, has been involved in Central Asia Regional Migration Program (CARMP) initiated by the UK Department for International development (DfID). The CARMP program covering four MIRPAL countries (Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan) will continue with the Bank in charge of building awareness, providing analytical support and ensuring sustainable coordination between participating countries via high- level policy dialogue.

In an effort to move the conversation forward, MIRPAL is opening its doors to more experts and practitioners from other ECA countries. With regard to the areas of migration research, MIRPAL members accompanied by the World Bank expertise are determined to address implications of the ongoing integration processes in the region.