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Olga Konsevych

Who Wants to Leave Forever? Emigration from EaP Countries

The reason why over 80% of Ukrainian migrant workers go abroad looking for job is their inability to earn their living at home. But low salaries are just one of the reasons, and not only in Ukraine. The Ukrainian-language version of presents the emigration flow in the Eastern Partnership region.

Жителі країн Східного партнерства все частіше виїжджають за кордон. Джерело:, користувач Kara Allyson

The number of migrating citizens of the Eastern Partnership countries is increasing, source:, author: Kara Allyson


Low living standards and citizens’ the desire to see the world – one can name a lot of reasons that force – or encourage people to work and live abroad. The situation is equally disappointing for Ukrainian adults as well as youth. According to the survey by the SSC and Institute of Demography and Social Studies (2012), 80% of Ukrainians go abroad because there they are better paid for their work. The average salary in their homeland (for 2011) is $281. In Germany they can earn up to $1,800, and in Poland it is around $600.

In general, the largest number of Ukrainians are working in Russia – 500,000 people. The same number of migrant workers work in Poland, the Czech Republic and Italy. Another 200,000 Ukrainians work in Spain, Portugal, Hungary and Belarus.

Experts point out that the biggest problem is the emigration of educated people. According to some recent data, 1622 Ukrainian scientists moved for permanent residence abroad in the period from 1996 to 2011. The majority went to the United States, Germany and Russia. We should also keep in mind that the number of researchers in Ukraine has decreased threefold since 1991. How about those not yet graduated? An increasing number of students choose education abroad. And it’s hard to blame them. According to opinion polls, 41% of workers, aged 18 to 29 years old, admit that they are ready to leave Ukraine for a well-paying and promising job. Does this not mean that the country can not provide young people with a decent living?


According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the migration situation in the country is stable. For example, according to statistics for 2012, 8712 people left the country, and 18040 people came to Belarus for permanent residence. That means net migration is positive. But we should remember that the data of the Belarusian official population census and administrative accounting systems are not always objective.

The Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies published data (2012) showing that 35.6% of Belarusians want to go abroad. Since independence, most Belarusians have emigrated to Russia, Israel, the U.S., Germany and Poland.

There are a lot of people with higher education (mainly specialists in economics) and high social status who want to leave the country. This means that Belarus may also lose its best citizen potential. What’s interesting, the typical Belarusian, who already had permanent work experience abroad, is a divorced man, 30-44 years old, with a secondary or specialized secondary education, residing in Minsk or in a town with population from 50 to 100 thousand people.


The National Statistical Service of Armenia has recently published interesting data: for 6 months in 2013, 123 thousand people have left the country (the population of Armenia is 3 million people). The authorities strongly hope for the initialing of the Association Agreement with the EU. According to authorities, the association will provide an opportunity to create new jobs and be able to “prevent” people from leaving their homeland. Cooperation with the EU is good, but the agreement is still not signed, and in any case it can not provide a solution to all problems. It is necessary to strengthen the economy of the country and those in power should look for a solution on their own.

Analysts say that over the years of independence, there were three waves of emigration: 1991-1994 (after the collapse of the USSR, and also because of the Karabakh war and the blockade), 1999-2001, and 2008 – present day.


In Georgia, the statistical data on migration often provoke debates. Some experts base their conclusions on official data, others say there is the lack of reliable information. Independent researchers believe that the actual number of immigrants ranges from 300,000 to over a million people. Over the past few years, nearly 58,000 citizens of Georgia have received a permanent residence permit in the EU countries (mainly in Greece, Germany, Italy and Spain).

By the way, the State Border Service of Ukraine reports that there has been a recent increase in the number of Georgian citizens illegally crossing the border of Ukraine to go later to Russia or the EU.

Money transfers from abroad make up about 7% of Georgia’s GDP, what means that the migrant workers’ money contribute to the economy. However, we should not forget that the state needs to think about how to get its citizens, earning money and living abroad, to come back home.


Recently, the European Commission funded a study Costs and Benefits of Labour Mobility between the EU and the Eastern Partnership Partner Countries. It has shown that Azerbaijanis go abroad not only because of problems with employment or desire to change their life. Azerbaijan has a difficult situation in the regions, as there are problems with providing drinking water, gas, and electricity. About 82% of Azerbaijanis moving to the CIS countries (to Russia – 61%). Only 2.5% of labor migrants go to the EU. In addition to that, Azerbaijan faces the aging workforce challenge. Taking into account the decline in the birth rate in the 90s, they should expect the decrease in the number of people aged 15-24 years.


In Moldova, a statistical portrait of a migrant worker is quite interesting. More than 72% of Moldovans working abroad were born in the countryside. More than 75% of emigrants have specialized secondary education. And their average age is from 18 to 34 years old. Women often go to Italy, Spain, Germany, Cyprus and Turkey. Men go to Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Austria, Portugal, and the Czech Republic. Young people mainly go for education –  the number of Moldovans studying abroad is constantly growing. But in all the countries of the Eastern Partnership it is very difficult to say the exact number of people living there illegally.

That is significant that 15% of the adult population of the post-Soviet countries want to migrate to another country and stay permanently. The bravest leave their homeland in order to survive. People are tired of corrupt officials, lying politicians, and inadequate life. They are tired of the indifference of their authorities. The leaders of the EaP states should consider the existing situation.

The material has been prepared on the basis of the following sources:,

Translated by MA

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Olga Konsevych is currently studying for her PhD at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. She has 6 years of journalism experience and specializes in writing articles related to the democratic changes in Ukraine and Post-Soviet states. Also, Olga works with NGOs in Poland, Moldova and Russia as a journalist and media expert on EU-Ukraine relations and the political situation in Ukraine.

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