UN Report Warns Of New Wave of Emigration From Armenia

A terminal at Armenia's Zvartnots International Airport.

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia will face “a new wave of emigration” unless its government does more to improve the socioeconomic situation and boost the rule of law in the country, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) warned on Tuesday.

In an annual report, the UNDP called for wide-ranging government measures, including democratic reform, that would “considerably reduce the motivation of Armenia’s population to leave the country.”

At least 700,000 Armenians, or about one-quarter of the country’s population, are believed to have emigrated to Russia and other countries since the break-up of the Soviet Union and the resulting turmoil in the region. The economically driven migration slowed significantly in the 1990s as the Armenian economy began recovering from its post-Soviet slump.

The problem is the main focus of the UNDP’s latest “human development report” on Armenia drawn up by local migration experts. They listed and analyzed its “significant negative effects on Armenia’s development processes.”

Those include decreased birth and marriage rates, a brain drain and other, “moral-psychological” consequences. People thinking about finding employment abroad are “less likely to struggle for the country’s development or against injustice and violations of law” and “more tolerant of negative phenomena, passive and too focused on just consumption,” says the 170-page report.

The report at the same time acknowledges economic benefits of the phenomenon, pointing to multimillion-dollar cash remittances sent home by hundreds of thousands of Armenian migrant workers mainly based in Russia, Europe and the United States. According to the Armenian Central Bank, their non-commercial cash transfers totaled $1.12 billion last year. The sum was equivalent to almost 13 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

The UNDP report confirms that the outflow of the population has eased significantly over the past decade parallel to Armenia’s robust economic growth. “The evidence is that permanent net emigration fell to an average of about 10,000 persons per annum, which is only about 0.4 percent of the country’s total population,” it says.

“However, despite the aforementioned process, the external migration situation in Armenia still remains alarming,” it adds. “Moreover, there are certain factors that give reason to assume that a new, rather massive wave of emigration may emerge.”

The UNDP-contracted experts argued in particular that tens of thousands of Armenian men working abroad might eventually reunite with their families and cause Armenia to “lose another 200,000-300,000 citizens.” Another factor mentioned by them in this regard is the ongoing concentration of agricultural land plots in the hands of wealthy individuals.

“Depending on how and at what pace [the land consolidation] happens, small land owners will be driven out of agricultural production, and some of them will most probably opt for labor emigration or permanent emigration due to the surplus of labor force in Armenia,” says the report.

“Migration remains a risk factor for Armenia’s national security,” said Vartan Gevorgian, a sociologist who led a team of Armenian experts working on the report. “I am talking about irregular migration.”

Accordingly, the report stresses the need for “active intervention” by the state aimed at “limiting the volume of permanent emigration.” It says that should be done through improving not only economic conditions but “governance practices” in the country. More specifically, that should mean “the adoption and restoration of democratic values in governance practice and the elimination of double standards,” according to the report.

“Most state officials are inclined to blame [the emigration] on socioeconomic causes such as unemployment,” Gevorgian told journalists. “But at the end of the day, people become poor not just because of a loss of income but also because of being unable to defend their rights … because of weak property guarantees.”

The UNDP report likewise says that Armenians have left the country not only because of poverty but also injustice, inequality before the law and a resulting atmosphere of popular cynicism.

Speaking during a public presentation of the report, Armenia’s Deputy Prime Minister Armen Gevorgian praised the UNDP office in Yerevan and the authors of the extensive analysis. He said its findings and proposals will be “useful” for government officials dealing with migration.

Gevorgian also said that the Armenian government is committed to finding “effective and radical solutions” to the problem and is currently working on a strategy of “state regulation of migration.” He did not elaborate.

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6 Comments

  1. Arman said:

    I personally don’t believe that Armenian government will do anything. A government that is based on injustice will not provide justice. I also believe that the emigration exists in Armenia not only because of poor economic situation but it mainly exists because of injustice. People do not feel safe in their country.
    The worst is that the opposition is sleeping on these issues that forces people to leave their country with no hope of return. The foreign issues are important but inner issues became more dangerous that any. If this is not going to be understood than we will and up giving Armenia to some neighboring country for rent.

  2. Hermine said:

    Corruption, injustice, poor economy, also no hope for the future…People try to find rules, work, their rights and in the end, some future for their children wherever but not in Armenia, because nothing changes to have a better life in Armenia. Even in Georgia is better now! Shame on our government, because they cannot make such a small country like Armenia in a Paradise. Pay attention that Armenia is like a city in the world with only 2.5mln population, and with a nation who is not lazy and like to work (look armenians how work abroad!).

  3. AnaG said:

    I agree with you 100% and glad that there is somebody who thinks the same as me. If this stupid corrupted government one day will change, many Armenian will return back to Armenia if they will have an opportunity to work and prosper as here: look how well Armenians do here, Why? because the system is the right one.

  4. john papazian said:

    Armenia has all but given up.We have been abbanded by the west and it is time to “do what ever it takes”. How can Chirstiandom just turn a blind eye. Is Armenia is going fade into history ?,Im sure there are those who would not mind or miss us one bit,here in America or in Turkey.Why is the Armenian economy so destitute? Isnt there GOLD under them there hills? Are we that dependent on or worse that afraid of the rest of world? Armenians are leaving whats left of the homeland because there is no leadership or deriction. If Armenias future is dependent upon the west then I’m sure the next genocide will be in color.

  5. Arpi said:

    The governement is there because the people elected it. Any change that needs to happen will need to happen from within. There are organizations and different political groups, newspapers that point these issues out on a daily basis. Everyone abroad should be supporting these groups and actions on the grass roots level in order for any change to happen in Armenia.
    There has been great deal of progess over the past 20 years, we just need to push it even further.

  6. Araxi said:

    Arman, the Armenian government is the very CAUSE. Th enemies from within are working with the enemies outside, hand in hand to have an Armenia without Armenians. Why can’t people see this. It all started with levon ter petrossian and is still continuing today. WAKE UP ARMENIANS.

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