Labor migration bans and restrictions: three industries to suffer most

Migrant workforce has had an enormous impact on the labor market in Russia. Migrants are in high demand in industries like construction, food catering and others. However, recent bans imposed across Russia have made the employment process for foreign workers substantially more complicated.

Максим Блинов / РИА Новости

Current status of migrant workforce

There has been no mass outflow of migrants so far, at least not confirmed by official statistics. There is a certain number of migrants who left Russia and are not working at the moment although their departure could have been caused by other factors such as work seasonality.

It is important to note that Russia has lost some of its appeal to foreign workers lately, mostly due to the economic situation in the country and the weaker ruble. Migrants are interested in a monthly income of around $1,000. However, employers are not adjusting wages and, while these wages don’t change in rubles, they are becoming significantly lower in US dollars. Therefore, most employers can’t satisfy labor migrants’ basic need, which is to earn money and return home.

In these conditions, only two industries can provide this level of income regardless of external factors. They are food tech and logistics. Therefore, migrants are primarily interested in getting jobs in these industries.

Additionally, migrants have become more demanding with respect to employers since 2023.  It is highly important for foreign workers to find official employment, get assistance with legalization in the country, as well as with accommodation, social benefits and guarantees. This trend has continued into 2024 and it is possible that migrants’ requirements will keep growing further.

Causes and consequences of bans

Bans on certain activities for labor migrants is not a new idea; in fact, this practice began back in 2014. The restrictions are to solve problems that are relevant in specific Russian regions. These problems may include redistribution of labor resources or fixing local discrepancies in unemployment. Most often, restrictions affect work areas of high social significance that involve frequent interaction with people. Some examples include catering or public transport, and Horeca, as there is a high risk of a language or concept barrier between workers and their customers.

Neither regional nor federal legislation have much influence on the labor migration markets and amendments are rare. The reason is migrant labor is in great demand in Russia and bans in one industry may cause foreign workers’ outflow to other industries.  

Regions introducing bans on migrant labor in specific industries include the Chelyabinsk, Tula, Kaluga, Tyumen and Novosibirsk regions, as well as the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area, the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), and the Krasnodar Territory. In all of these cases the bans were imposed to address local issues.

The regions are restricting migrants’ working activities in certain industries such as food catering, public transport, ground-based cargo operations, manufacturing, taxi driving, production of dietary and baby foods, and retail.

It is noteworthy that the bans only concern specific regions.

Industries to be most affected by prohibition of migrant labor

  • Industrial production

According to the Russian Statistics Service data for February 2024, about 50% of job openings do not receive applications. Due to a high demand and low supply among migrants, increasingly more foreigners set higher demands for potential employers. In the long run, this trend may reduce production capacities and drive product prices upward.

  • Agriculture

Only 47% of job openings in the agricultural industry get closed, causing higher food prices due to lower production volumes. The shortage of staff in agriculture will inevitably slow down the overall economic growth as employers will be restricted in their ability to invest in various projects and expand their businesses.

  • Construction

Only 38% of job openings get closed. The ban on migrants in construction will result in a deficit of workforce and higher real estate prices. Consequently, the supply on the housing market will go down, driving up prices.

Broadly speaking, restrictions on employment within a specific sector often result in increased prices for both services and goods. For instance, during the New Year holidays, when many drivers return to their home countries, taxi fares typically surge by approximately 10–20% due to decreased supply. Despite the drop in supply, demand remains constant, creating favorable conditions for price hikes.


The landscape of labor migration in 2024 has witnessed significant shifts. There’s been a notable transformation in employers’ perceptions toward foreign labor. Previously, in St. Petersburg, employers predominantly hired migrants from Tajikistan, Moldova, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan. However, today, candidates from India, Africa, Vietnam, and the DPRK are also being considered. It’s anticipated that these nations could potentially offset the labor shortage previously filled by migrants from CIS countries.

It’s important to highlight that labor migration from non-CIS countries entails a lengthier and more intricate process. Employers must navigate visa arrangements, secure work permits for employees, and ensure favorable working conditions.

When assessing the repercussions of imposing limitations on migrant employment in specific sectors, it’s vital to acknowledge that Russia may struggle to entirely offset the absence of foreign labor in at least one domain. A Russian worker is accustomed to particular working conditions, and what is offered to migrants may not suffice for a local resident. Primarily, their objective isn’t merely to earn money and return home but to provide for their family and secure their future.

In conclusion, labor migrants significantly influence Russia’s labor sector. The scarcity of foreign labor is gradually driving up the prices of services and real estate. While it’s unlikely that the trend of employment bans in specific sectors will grow, those already implemented are expected to address existing social issues.

By Andrey Kladov, Executive Director of the Migrant Service app, expert in the field of migration policy and personnel recruitment

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