Do we need to stop migration to megacities

The topic of population migration — even within Russia — has escalated over the years. It seems to many that Moscow and St. Petersburg are only growing in population and resources, while the rest cities are extremely losing them.

Pavel Bednyakov / RIAN
Pavel Bednyakov / RIAN

It’s not really true. It is enough to look at statistics on population migration. According to Rosstat, for example, in 2020 164.2 thousand people arrived in St. Petersburg, but 162.3 thousand have gone to other cities. A little more than 17 thousand people arrived in Kaliningrad over the same period, and it lost less than 11.9 thousand. If you do not consider the cities-capitals of the regions, then you can find examples where people move more often than they leave. For example, Yelets (population more than 100 thousand): 1856 people dropped out, and 2006 arrived.

Nevertheless, of course, megacities attract residents: with primarily higher level of salaries, a more developed infrastructure, the ability to accumulate more quickly sufficient money for housing. Sales of apartments in new buildings also make it possible to draw up certain ideas: from which regions people seek to move, what real estate they acquire. So, for example, last year the share of nonresident buyers of apartments in new buildings in Moscow could reach 40%, in St. Petersburg — about 20%, in Kaliningrad — up to 15%.

At the same time, they move to the “capitals” both from fairly affluent regions where work is connected with oil and gas and other extractive industries, with industry, and from subsidized regions. In the first case, an apartment in Moscow or St. Petersburg is bought sometimes with 100% payment from own earnings and savings, in the second case — at the expense of the sale of existing housing in the region + mortgages.

How to stop such migration and do we need to stop it? Let’s take a look at the first example: when money for housing are earned in one region but invested in another one. Obviously, by some reason, despite the high income, a person does not seek to stay in this city. There can be both natural causes (for example, a climate that cannot be changed) and quite “man-made” ones: lack of infrastructure, including for the development of children, for example high-class schools and universities, lower quality of medicine, and sometimes higher prices for goods and food, etc.

In the second case, when migration comes from a not very rich region, the reasons are most often the same, added are a lack of jobs or work in a specialty, as well as low salaries.

Remote work can partially solve this problem: giant companies willingly hire employees in the regions, but, again, on salaries corresponding to the average for the “home” district for the hired employee. And in addition, even the presence of such work often does not help a person solve all own and his family’s needs. It’s chasing people again in megacities. The sole exception are IT specialists, but this is only a certain percentage of employment, not the largest one.

And of course, the fact that many move not to Moscow or St. Petersburg, but, for example, to Yekaterinburg, Kazan or Novosibirsk, does not cancel the need to resolve the issue of population outflow: primarily from small towns, and villages. Even the appearance of the so-called “reverse migration” (when residents of megacities move outside the city) does not yet suggest that life outside the big developed cities has generally become more prosperous than, for example, 5 years ago.

On the other hand, there is always and will be a certain percentage of citizens (and it is actually very large) who are not inclined to move to another city for reasons of principle, since established family and social ties are very important to them. This is one of the strongest factors that deter internal migration in Russia.

By Roman Miroshnikov, CEO, Oikumena Development Company

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