With the onset of spring fast approaching, Russia is preparing for a new, incoming wave of labor migrants. Government officials in Moscow, including the head of the Federal Migration Service, acknowledge that the Russian economy needs guest workers in order to promote a steady growth rate. Nevertheless, the Kremlin has to maintain a delicate balancing act on the labor-migrant issue, given that xenophobic public attitudes remain strong.
In comments made in late January about 2009 trends, Konstantin Romodanovsky, the Russia's FMS chief, described the influx of foreign labor migrants as the "best demographic indicator in the last 15 years," the Itar-Tass news agency reported. Russia currently has the second largest population of foreign migrants in the world after the United States. Estimates on the number of labor migrants vary widely - from 4 million to 12 million.
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Masha Charnay is a freelance writer based in Moscow.