Academic journal article International Journal of Population Research

International Comparisons of Population Mobility in Russia

Academic journal article International Journal of Population Research

International Comparisons of Population Mobility in Russia

Article excerpt

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Timothy Heleniak 1

Recommended by Zai Liang

1, Department of Geography, 2181 LeFrak Hall, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA

Received 3 November 2011; Accepted 26 February 2012

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

1. Introduction

In the closed economic system of the Soviet Union, regional wage disparities were minimal, and it was the state, not the market, which primarily determined the allocation of the population across Russia, territorially the world's largest country. According to one of the most cited works on Russia's post-Soviet human geography, what seems to be Russia's greatest asset--its enormous size--also gave Soviet central planners enormous room for error [1]. The study does not only describe why there has been so much migration in post-Soviet Russia but also why mobility needs to increase for Russia to become a more productive economy. With the opening up of the country and the transition to a market economy, which has brought about large economic and regional disparities, the result should have been large increases in spatial mobility of the population. However, it appears from official statistics that during the post-Soviet period, mobility of the population has fallen by half from already low levels and the spatial misallocation of human resources in Russia lingers. This paper examines the puzzle of the immobility of the population of Russia by comparing mobility rates to those in other countries. Especially important for Russia are comparisons with other large countries, where distances of migration are long. Among the questions examined are the following. In Russia, what percent of the population changes place of residence in any given year as opposed to the populations of other countries? How many times do people in Russia move during their lifetimes compared to people in other countries? How many people in Russia remain in the same place they were born throughout their lives as compared to people in other countries? How efficient, in a demographic sense, has the migration that has taken place in Russia been in redistributing the population?

2. Regional Restructuring and Migration in Post-Soviet Russia

Because it was attempting to create a more egalitarian society, the Soviet government attempted to equalize the standard of living across all regions of the country. This tended to minimize regional differences in wages and living standards, thus dampening a major factor driving migration in other countries. Without explicitly realizing it, Soviet central planners used elements of neoclassical economic theories of migration by offering wage and other incentives to attract migrants to distant periphery and underdeveloped regions of the USSR [2]. One group of regions which received special attention and incentives was the Krayny Sever (Far North) because they contained so much of Russia's natural resource wealth. These regions of Siberia and the Far East were the targets of special development policies including regional wage increments and other incentives for workers to migrate to these regions and heavily subsidized transport which made development of these regions possible.

The economic transition began in January 1992 with the liberalization of prices and the exchange rate of the ruble, removal of controls on foreign trade, and privatization of housing, small businesses, large enterprises, land, and agriculture [3]. This caused significant structural changes in the economy as the percent employed in industry fell from 40 percent in 1990 to 29 percent in 2007, while the underdeveloped service sector rose from 46 to 62 percent, with agriculture's share falling slightly from 14 to 9 percent [4]. This had a differential impact on regional economic growth depending on the local economic structure and was a major factor driving regional income disparities. …

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