Tomsk residents and labour migrants
In May 2014, the Laboratory for social and anthropological research, together with the TSU Department of Sociology, conducted a mass survey among residents of Tomsk on the topic: ‘The attitude of Tomsk residents towards labour migrants’.
Within the survey, 900 respondents, representing the main socio-demographic groups of the Tomsk population, were interviewed and the conclusion was drawn as to the predominance of the pointedly neutral attitude of Tomsk residents towards labour migrants. More precisely, 49% of the respondents said that they are indifferent to the presence of labour migrants in the city and only 29% expressed their negative attitude.
However, the respondents noted the redundancy of migrants in the region. Over half of them (65%) believe that there are many migrants in the region, and only 12% think migrants are few. Those called by the respondents migrants are people coming from Central Asia: Uzbeks (57%), Tadjiks (35%), and the Kirghiz (14%). Other groups of migrants include the Azerbaijanis (18%) and the Chinese (11%). It is noteworthy that it is mostly young adults aged 26 to 35 and those with lower levels of education that speak of the dominance of migrants.
The main reasons for the significant influx of migrants are said to be of an economic character, namely low wages and the lack of jobs in their homelands that force migrants to go to work in Siberia. Moreover, the respondents noted that employers benefit from using migrant labour for it is cheaper and may also be used illegally, without the payment of taxes and thus, allowing to lower production costs.
The majority of the respondents (66%) believe that the city can do without migrant labour but for the time being migrants do the work that the locals do not want to do.
Therefore, the vast majority of the respondents (94%) do not see labour migrants as their rivals in the labour market.
However, more than half of the respondents are in favour of tightening the immigration policy and reducing the influx of migrants to the region of Tomsk.
Such an outcome is largely due to the perception of migrants as a source of crime (51% of the respondents said that labour migrants increase the city’s crime rate), as well as to negative experiences of communicating with migrants.
To conclude, the survey revealed a delicate balance in the attitude of the local population towards labour migrants – the latter do not cause explicit irritation today but in case the number of migrants grows or the socio-economic situation deteriorates, intolerant attitudes and interethnic tensions may increase.