Libmonster ID: VN-1208


Candidate of Economic Sciences


Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Institute of Socio-Political Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Keywords: China, Vietnam, Russia, labor migration, migration policy

China and Vietnam have significant demographic potential, which is characterized by a significant number of labor resources. In this situation, some of the surplus workers are focused on labor migration abroad. The likelihood of labor migrants leaving Vietnam is also increased by such a factor as flooding of part of the country's coastal areas as a result of global warming. The Russian Federation, as a country with a high capacity of the national labor market and historical migration links, already has a significant number of Chinese and Vietnamese migrants who adapt to Russian society in different ways. And in the long run, Russia may be one of the countries where an increasing number of labor migrants from China and Vietnam will seek to move to work.

China and Vietnam are among the most populous countries in the world: in 2010, the population of China was 1341.3 million (1st place in the world), and Vietnam - 87.8 million people. At the same time, according to the UN, the population growth rate in Vietnam (1.1% in 2005-2010) was an order of magnitude higher than in China (0.5% in 2005-2010). Although the huge population of China leads to the fact that even small growth rates result in a significant increase in the absolute population.

Between 1990 and 2010, the population increased by 196 million in China and 20.7 million in Vietnam. The largest increase was recorded between 1990 and 1995, when the number of Chinese grew by 69 million and the number of Vietnamese by 7 million.1


Overall fertility rates in both countries are gradually declining: from 1990 to 2010, Vietnam's birth rate dropped from 27.3% to 16.7%, and China's from 18.7% to 12.3%. The decline in total fertility rates during this period was quite dramatic: in Vietnam-from 3.2 to 1.8 children per woman of fertile (reproductive) age, and in China - from 2 to 1.6 children2. Obviously, the restriction of the number of children in a family was influenced by the active demographic policy in these countries (in China it is clearly manifested, and in Vietnam it is more veiled, "indirect" in nature).

Trends in mortality rates were mixed. In Vietnam, as the standard of living increased and socio-economic development progressed, the mortality rate of the population gradually decreased: from 6.9% to 5.2% in 1990-2010. But in China, on the contrary, it increased - from 6.9% to 7.3% due to significant poverty, as well as an increase in injuries and accidents at production facilities.3 Thus, social policy in Vietnam is more effective.

However, the life expectancy of Chinese and Vietnamese people has been rising. In Vietnam, for example, it rose from 66.1 to 72.3 years for men between 1990 and 2010, and from 69.6 to 76.2 for women over the same period. In China, this indicator increased not so significantly: for men - from 68.4 to 71.1 years, for women - from 71.6 to 74.5 in 2010.4

The level of urbanization in China in 1990-2010 increased significantly - from 26.4% to 47%, which was due to the active migration of the population from rural areas to cities. In Vietnam, growth was less active - from 20.3% to 30.4%. Despite a significant increase in the urban population, the level of urbanisation in Vietnam remains low, with almost 70% of Vietnamese living in rural areas.5

The sex ratio in the two countries differs significantly: in China in 2010, there were 108 men per 100 women, while in Vietnam, there were only 98 men per 100 women.

The age structure of the population of the two countries differs by a significant proportion of young and middle-aged people. In Vietnam, 26.3% of the population is under 14 years of age, 67.9% are between 15 and 64 years of age, and 5.8% are over 65 years of age. In China, respectively, 18.5%, 73.2% and 8.3% 7.

Our previous study8 shows that the young gender and age structure of the Vietnamese population, combined with socio-economic development, is one of the most important factors in shaping the migration potential of labor emigration. Calculations show that Vietnam has a migration potential of about 2.6 million people - so many Vietnamese can potentially be migrants in the short term. Ros-focused migration potential-

page 46


Number of work permits in Russia issued by the Federal Migration Service to foreign citizens in 2000-2012, thousand people





















From the CIS countries










From non-CIS countries, incl.:






























Source: Riazantsev S. V. Trudovaya migratsiya v stranakh CIS i Baltii: tendentsii, posledstviya, regulirovanie [Labor migration in the CIS and Baltic countries: Trends, consequences, regulation]. Moscow, Formula prava, 2007; Monitoring of legal (legal) external labor migration for 2007-2008. Moscow, FMS of Russia, 2009 // Statistical Review, Moscow, Rosstat, 2013, No. 1 (84); Labor and Employment in Russia 2011. Statistical Collection, Moscow, Rosstat Publ., 2011.

this number can be only 85 thousand people - very little. This is due, on the one hand, to the fact that Vietnamese people are afraid of emigrating to Russia, knowing about corruption, bureaucracy, and the problems of migrant workers. On the other hand, Russia does not form migration flows from Vietnam purposefully. There are no effective agreements on the supply of labor to Russia, and the tools for attracting and adapting Vietnamese workers have not been worked out.


Since 2000, the number of Chinese work permits has grown steadily, reaching almost 282,000 in 2008. Since the beginning of the economic crisis, the number of permits issued decreased and in 2012 amounted to about 77 thousand (see Table). China ranks third in the list of countries that provide Russia with labor resources from abroad, after Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.9

The Russian Census of 2002 recorded only 35,000 ethnic Chinese and 31,000 Chinese citizens who live in our country. The last Russian census of 2010 counted slightly fewer people in Russia - about 29,000 ethnic Chinese and 28,000 Chinese citizens.10

The figures obtained as a result of the latest Russian population censuses can be considered clearly underestimated, for at least three reasons. First, only the permanent population, i.e. people who have lived in Russia for more than 1 year, was officially registered. It should be borne in mind that many migrants from China are in Russia, as a rule, for short periods of time, working temporarily. Secondly, there was a significant under-reporting in population censuses due to the inability to collect information in some places (for example, in markets, construction sites, rural areas, etc.). Third, foreign workers who were not properly registered deliberately avoided the census, because they were afraid of any contact with the authorities.

Many experts have recognized that under-counting in the census amounted to from 5% to 10% of the population. It can be assumed that for such a highly localized ethnic group as the Chinese, the underestimation could be much more significant - up to 90%. Thus, according to our calculations, the real number of Chinese in Russia may be at least 350-400 thousand people.

It is not surprising that an accurate assessment of the Chinese diaspora in Russia is impossible. In addition to poor-quality statistics, this is also affected by the high mobility of Chinese people (for example, many come to Russia as seasonal and temporary workers, "shuttles"), as well as the isolation of the community and criminalized relations around it (it is known that in the context of Russian corruption, even representatives of the Federal Migration Service cannot always conduct inspections in Chinese markets).

According to the Federal Migration Service of Russia, the overwhelming majority of Chinese labor migrants were men (about 90%). Among migrant workers, just over 80% of men and 90% of women are between the ages of 18 and 39. The most numerous group of foreign workers is aged 30-39 years (about 40%). Half of all Chinese in Russia (more than 52%) in 2006 were employed in retail and wholesale trade, public catering; about 21% - in construction; about 15% - in agriculture and forestry; about 3% - in industrial enterprises and in the extractive industry (see chart).

Thus, neither the employment structure nor the qualification composition of Chinese migrants currently meet the needs of the economy of the eastern regions of Russia. In the most labor-deficient industries (construction, agriculture), only those who have legally entered under a contract work.

The main regions where Chinese migrants settle in Russia are Moscow, the Far East, and Siberia. Here the number of the Chinese diaspora is growing most intensively. According to the 2002 census, there were about 13,000 ethnic Chinese in Moscow. According to unofficial estimates, the Chinese community in the capital is up to 100 thousand people.

11 studies show that the Chinese fraternity mainly consists of young men (about 70%) aged

page 47

Chart. Sectoral structure of employment of Chinese migrant workers in Russia in 2010,%.

Source: Monitoring of legal (legal) external labor migration for 2007-2008, Moscow, FMS of Russia, 2009.

up to 40 years (68%), of which half are single. Almost 70% of Chinese people live in hostels and hotels. Some hostels in Moscow have "Chinese" floors, where Chinese migrants rent a room for 4-5 people for $1 thousand a month. Other Chinese migrants rent apartments near their places of work - markets and shopping centers. Areas of compact residence of Chinese people in the capital are Izmailovo, Cherkizovo, Maryino, Yasenevo, Krylatskoye, Ochakovo. Approximately 40% of Chinese people trade in markets, the rest work in the service sector (in centers of traditional Chinese medicine and cosmetology) - 15-20% in hotels, restaurants or are engaged in business organization.

Closed mono-ethnic Chinese communities of the "market-hostel" type have emerged in Moscow, although they are not of a mass nature. Chinese communities are becoming an increasingly important factor in the socio-economic development of Russian cities and regions. Russian cities have established a system for receiving incoming Chinese citizens, which includes Chinese markets, shops, hotels, restaurants, banks, lawyers, and contacts in law enforcement agencies. Several national societies representing the interests of Chinese migrants to the authorities are registered in many Russian cities.

There are criminal relations within the Chinese community. In Russia, Chinese criminal groups put pressure on Chinese merchants, businessmen, and migrant workers, demanding that they pay for protection ("roof"). At the same time, they skillfully use the reluctance of victims and their relatives to contact Russian law enforcement agencies due to their ethnic loyalty, as well as the fear of having problems with the migration authorities. For this reason, it is impossible to identify witnesses to crimes committed by members of the Chinese triads. Chinese merchants, who until recently sold consumer goods in urban markets independently, and now through "Russian" sellers, represent a target for criminals that deserves the most serious attention. Many Chinese restaurant owners are another category of extortion victims 12.

In the Far East, the Chinese are known as farmers who are well aware of the region's agroclimatic conditions; they are much more efficient, professional and executive workers than the Russians, and are not prone to drunkenness. According to expert interviews, if a Russian farmer produces 100 thousand rubles per year, then his Chinese counterpart-an average of 260 thousand rubles. Therefore, collective farms and farms in the Far East, if possible, prefer to hire not local residents, but Chinese people, and lease empty land to them. Foreign labor is already used as the main component of more than 1/5 of agricultural enterprises in Primorsky Krai 13.

Thousands of Chinese and Korean migrants work in the Krasnoyarsk Territory. Most of them are recruited by middlemen to work in agriculture or open markets as sellers, and are treated like slaves. Migrants come mainly for agricultural work in the spring and summer, but some also stay in winter to work in greenhouses.14

At the same time, Chinese labor migrants have adapted quite well to the Russian labor market. Especially successful is the socio-economic component of their integration : they have jobs and a relatively high level of income for migrant workers. However, the socio-psychological component of their adaptation is much less effective and successful.

page 48

The community is closed, localized, and not prone to assimilation and cultural mixing. Most representatives of the Chinese diaspora in Russia live very isolated, speak little Russian, and do not seek Russian citizenship. All this reinforces in the mass consciousness of Chinese migrants the idea of the temporary nature of their stay in Russia. Against the background of the lack of normal relations with the state and authorities, and against the background of corruption that has developed around the migration sphere in Russia and the Chinese diaspora, this leads to increased isolation of migrants, their alienation, and creates prerequisites for the exploitation of migrant workers within the Chinese community.


Vietnam is one of the top 10 countries that provide Russia with foreign labor resources. The Russian Federal Migration Service issued about 98,000 work permits to Vietnamese citizens in 2009. This was the peak rate. The economic crisis and the tightening of migration policy reduced the number of permits issued in 2012 to 12 thousand 15

According to the 2002 census, 26,000 people lived in Russia. Vietnamese, and according to the 2010 census, their number decreased to 14 thousand people. Although in reality this figure is much higher and, according to our estimates, reaches 100-150 thousand people.16

Most of the Vietnamese people live and work in Moscow, Stavropol Krai, Bashkortostan, Volgograd, Sverdlovsk Regions, Khabarovsk Krai and a number of other regions of Russia. Most of them come from North Vietnam.

Vietnamese-language newspapers and magazines are published in the capital, and there is a satellite channel of Vietnamese television broadcasting programs for Vietnamese citizens living in Russia17. Vietnamese people work, as a rule, in trade, agriculture, and the restaurant business, and their employment in the manufacturing sector is growing at enterprises owned by Vietnamese businessmen in Russia 18.

There are known facts of exploitation of Vietnamese labor at these enterprises 19. These cases are difficult to solve because they occur within the community itself - law enforcement agencies often do not have access to these businesses. The Russian Air Force Service in one of the programs told about the bullying of illegal migrants from Vietnam at a factory in the village of Savino, Yegoryevsky district of the Moscow Region. Then neither the Investigative Committee nor the Ministry of Internal Affairs found any violations of the criminal law, and the factory owners got off with fines. Later, it was reported that the company burned down, and 14 Vietnamese were killed in the fire, presumably locked in the shop. In Moscow, the police released 77 Vietnamese who worked in a shop for sewing children's clothing. The "slaves" did not see the money, and they had nowhere to run without documents 20.


There are several key aspects that distinguish these migration flows.

First, the settlement and employment patterns of migrant workers from China and Vietnam are significantly different. The Vietnamese are more dispersed throughout Russia, while the Chinese are mostly concentrated in the border regions of the Far East and Moscow. In recent years, there has been a significant transformation in the ethnic employment of Chinese and Vietnamese people. The Chinese are more focused on trade, service and construction, while the Vietnamese are more focused on industrial and agricultural production in Russia.

Secondly, Chinese businesses are more closed, and they prefer to integrate into the schemes of shadow relations that have developed in various sectors of the Russian economy. The Chinese invest money through figureheads (Russian citizens), without acting as owners of open enterprises or firms themselves.

The Vietnamese business is more open, but it is not without problems, which are rather caused not so much by the desire to go into the shadows, but rather by the inability to act completely transparently. In Russia, it is still difficult to conduct business honestly, draw up documents, pay taxes, and avoid paying bribes. We note the trend that many successful Vietnamese entrepreneurs leave for their homeland, not having the desire to conduct business in Russia under such conditions.

Third, in both ethnic businesses, entrepreneurs actively use the labor of their compatriots. In fact, we can say that Chinese and Vietnamese investments provide jobs for their own compatriots in Russia and have become the economic basis for labor migration. This leaves its mark on the formation and functioning of the Chinese and Vietnamese segments of the Russian economy, which are represented by such economic entities as ethnic firms, markets, restaurants, and shops.

Within ethnically homogenous companies, illegal migrant labor is most often used, which can be intimidated in order to manage, exploit, and avoid paying salaries. This trend is undesirable for Russia: Such companies should not be self-contained; they should also provide jobs for Russian citizens. But this is a difficult question. In Russia, it is necessary to create normal conditions for doing business in general, since domestic businessmen suffer no less from corruption and arbitrariness of officials.

Fourth, such conditions have an impact on the migration attitudes of Chinese and Vietnamese people in Russia. Both countries are known to encourage the export of labor resources abroad. China seeks to create a large and economically powerful diaspora outside the country. And although many Chinese people in surveys say that they are not going to stay in Russia for a long time, there is an obvious tendency for them to settle here for the long term. This usually happens by economic means (by starting a business, even if through front persons with Russian citizenship) and by social means (through training, marriages). Both of these processes are clearly stimulated by the Chinese state. And although many Chinese people say in surveys that they do not want to be a citizen-

page 49

This is more likely due not to their lack of desire, but rather to their concerns about the bureaucratic procedures associated with obtaining citizenship.

The Vietnamese, on the contrary, tend to associate themselves with Russia - here the historical factor plays a role. But they simply do not have any objective prerequisites for staying in Russia. Here it is impossible for them to conduct business honestly, the mechanisms for solving many related problems are corrupt, and it is also almost impossible to become a Russian citizen.

Fifth, Russia's migration policy towards the Chinese and Vietnamese is very strict. In internal documents, these countries are referred to as "migration dangerous". Oddly enough, at the same time, China is given more preferences than Vietnam. For example, there is a visa-free regime in border regions. Given the growing power of China and the presence of a common border with Russia, the geopolitical consequences of mass migration of Chinese people to our country can be very serious. And it is not so much the Chinese themselves who are to blame for this,but rather the shadowy and corrupt relations that have been created in the field of migration regulation in Russia.

Outwardly, Russia's tough migration policy seems to be a reliable "defensive shield", but in fact this shield has long been rotten. Instead of a clear and transparent regulation of Chinese migration with quotas for industries and regions, with transparent registration procedures, Russia has developed a shadowy system of corrupt relations with front owners, intermediary firms, etc.

We have visa-free relations with Vietnam. However, Vietnam, meeting Russia halfway and stimulating tourism, allows Russian citizens to stay in the country for up to 15 days without a visa. "As a token of gratitude," Russia is trying to deport illegal migrants from Vietnam, instead of regulating their status. Moreover, the Vietnamese often fall under the" hot hand " of the Russian migration policy.

This was the case, for example, in August 2013, when several hundred Vietnamese were detained by the Federal Migration Service and transferred to a specially created camp, where they were fed buckwheat (instead of rice), causing people health problems.21 But the situation on the Biryulyovo market initially arose not with Vietnamese migrants, but with migrants from the Russian republics of the Caucasus-the Vietnamese simply did not have all the necessary documents. But in this case, the bureaucratic machine worked rudely, which caused more damage to Russia's reputation in Vietnam. However, this is not surprising: Russia has long turned its back on Vietnam economically and geopolitically.

Vietnamese migration is necessary for some sectors of the Russian economy: from an economic and political point of view, it is much more efficient and profitable than Chinese migration. As part of the migration policy, it is necessary to allocate separate quotas to Vietnam by industry and region of Russia-where the work of Vietnamese workers is necessary and economically justified. Given the long distance from Vietnam to Russia and the more stable migration attitudes of Vietnamese people, they need to sign long-term contracts and issue work visas for longer periods - for example, for 3 to 4 years (currently the maximum period is 1 year).

We need to develop a network of firms and institutions that will train migrant workers in Vietnam, even before they migrate to Russia. It would be good to organize training in the Russian language and the basics of our culture in Vietnam, which will help prepare labor migrants for life in Russia and form the flow of educational migrants.

An important area of work should be the activation of activities related to the recruitment of educational migrants to Russia. It is necessary to restore lost scientific and educational ties, open Russian language courses, distribute literature and information about Russian universities. For students from Vietnam, a sufficient number of scholarships and grants are required.

1 Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2011. United Nations Publication N E.11.II. F.1. 2011.

2 Ibidem.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

Ryazantsev S. V. 8 Labor migration in the CIS and Baltic countries: trends, consequences, regulation. M, Formula prava, 2007. (Ryazantsev S. V. Trudovaya migratsiya v stranakh SNG i Baltii: tendentsii, posledstviya, regulirovanie. M., 2007) (in Russian)

9 Monitoring of legal (legal) external labor migration for 2007-2008 Moscow, FMS of Russia, 2009 // Statistical Review, Moscow, Rosstat. 2013, N 1 (84).

Ryazantsev S. V., Hongmei Ya 10 Kitayskaya migratsiya v Rossii: tendentsii, posledstviya, podkhody k regulirovaniyu [Chinese Migration to Russia: Trends, Consequences, Approaches to Regulation].

11 Monitoring of legal (legal) external labor migration..; Riazantsev S. V., Hongmei Ya. Edict op.

Melyukhin S.E. 12 Chinese Organized Crime in the Russian Far East: Final Report of October 10, 2011 -

13 Monitoring of legal (legal) external labor migration...

14 How to organize and protect migrant workers in agriculture and related industries. Geneva: International Union of Workers in the Food and Tobacco Industry, Agriculture, Hotel and Restaurant Services, Public Catering and Related Industries. 2008. С. 13 -

15 Monitoring of legal (legal) external labor migration...

16 Number and Migration of the population of the Russian Federation: Statistical Collection, Moscow, Federal State Statistics Service (Rosstat), 2011.

Riazantsev S. V., Manyshin R. V., Nguyen Canh Toan. 17 Comparative analysis of Vietnamese and Chinese migration to Russia // Migration law. 2013, N 1.

18 Monitoring of legal (legal) external labor migration...

Riazantsev S. V. 19 Human trafficking for the purpose of labor exploitation and illegal labor migration in the Russian Federation: forms, trends, counteraction: Report within the framework of the ADST-RINGO project. Stockholm, 2013.

20 How to organize and protect migrant workers...

21 Riots in Biryulyovo: chronicle of events -


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