Analysts warn that a possible recession in Russia sparked by the coronavirus crisis could signal serious trouble for Central Asian countries that rely on migrant worker remittances as a significant part of their economy.
Bloomberg Economics forecasts predict a 50 per cent chance Russia will go into recession as a result of the pandemic. According to the federal service for state statistics, more than 4.5 million migrants entered Russia in 2019 to work, study or reside permanently. Central Asia accounts for about 3.4 million of these migrants.
Denis Berdakov, the director of trans-boundary research at the Network of Central Eurasia, said that the quarantine announced in the larger cities of Russia would be particularly devastating for Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. As well restrictions on movement, businesses including restaurants have been shut down for the next two months, with this period likely to be extended.
"It's important to look at the population to migrant workers ratio," he said. "If the population of Kyrgyzstan is 6.5 million, Uzbekistan 33 million, and Tajikistan 9.5 million, the impact of financial remittances on the economy of these countries is different. For Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, remittances from migrants are the key support of socioeconomic and even political life."
Shabdan Dakharov, from Tajikistan, was a waiter at Moscow restaurant until he was dismissed a week ago due to the quarantine. He said that his wages had paid for his brother's education and accommodation for both of them; now he is looking for other work but with no success.