Children of Migrants May Be Denied Right to Attend Russian Schools

October 4, 2013
Photo: Sergey Savostjanov / WP

A bill has been submitted to the State Duma that proposes to provide education to children of migrant workers only if their parents submit a certificate from the tax authorities that they are residents for tax purposes and have paid taxes in Russia for at least one year prior to their child enrollment in a kindergarten or school.

According to the deputies, such a move would ease social tensions caused by the shortage of places in Russian pre-schools, and would also encourage migrant workers to work legally.

As stated in the explanatory note, there are about two million children in the country who need to be enrolled in pre-school educational institutions. In cities and towns there are 111 applicants per 100 places. The problem is especially acute in large cities, such as Moscow and St. Petersburg. According to the authors of the bill, the problem is due, in particular, to the fact that over the last few years the number of children of migrants from the CIS and Central Asia dramatically increased in kindergartens and schools. Now they make up from 4 to 10 percent of the total enrollment.

In general the issue of migrant children education in Russia is quite controversial. On the one hand, the problem of shortage of places in kindergartens hasn’t been resolved for almost a decade. And the fact that a mother who is a Russian citizen sometimes cannot afford to come back to work after maternity leave just because a kindergarten did not find a place for her child , but accepted a child of a migrant, causes considerable tension in the society. The question is why those who pay taxes and those who do not pay them and are not even citizens of the country have the same social benefits, seems quite reasonable.

But there are other considerations. According to the Federal Migration Service, there are at least twice as many illegal migrants in Russia as legal ones. But despite the fact that they do not pay direct taxes to the Russian budget, experts estimate their contribution to our economy at around 7-8 percent of GDP. In addition, most often labor migrants work illegally because it is extremely difficult to get legal permission to work.

There is yet another consideration, that is demography. It’s been discussed repeatedly that Russia does not have enough manpower, and in the next few years the demand for them will only increase. So we cannot afford to shut migrants off. And, according to experts, the best scenario is the one whereby children of migrants from early childhood attend Russian schools and kindergartens to adapt to the society faster, learn the language, get the cultural skills and enter adulthood virtually “Russified”. “Within two years of study at a Russian school a migrant child “switches” from national traditions to the Russian ones,” says Julia Florinskaya, a senior researcher at the National Research Institute of Demography of the Higher School of Economics. In this regard, experts argue not only for enrolling children of migrant workers into educational institutions, but also giving them the right to a fast-track naturalization upon graduation.