COVID-19 Pandemic Versus Migration and Remittances

COVID-19 Pandemic Versus Migration and Remittances
04 February 2021 | 09:54

Most of the Moldovan citizens that returned to their home country during the COVID-19 pandemic are circular, short-term migrants (85%), who have worked abroad in construction (36%), and home care (27%). For the most part, returnees intend to leave Moldova in the near future (61%), and 37% intend to either find a job or start a business home. The International Organization for Migration in partnership with the World Bank carried out a nationally representative study and collected the data during July – September 2020.

Moldovans’ backgrounds returning home from abroad

During July-September 2020, 72% of Moldovan citizens returned home from the European Union and 54% lived in rural areas. 57% are men, of which 35% between 30-39 years. More than half of them work abroad in the construction field (59%), another 14% – in the transport field, and most of the returned women provide care services (56%), on the second place is the industrial field (9%).

The majority of returnees intend to leave Moldova in the near future (61%), and at the same time, 37% intend to either find a job or start a business in Moldova.

Reasons to come back to Moldova

Most of the returned migrants stated that they came back to Moldova for family reasons (37%). Another 22% say that their legal length of stay in the host country has expired, 13% – that they are on leave and another 13% say that they are on temporary leave due to the pandemic. Only 7% of those who returned home during the pandemic motivated their return to the country by losing their jobs due to COVID-19. Another 7% of people said that their salary or work schedule had been reduced. The majority of migrants who returned to Moldova during the pandemic – 74% – received the necessary assistance in the return process. Once in the country, however, some people claim to have had a discriminatory or hostile attitude because they were in countries with outbreaks of COVID-19 (19%).

The impact of COVID-19 on household welfare

In most Moldovan households, the main source of income is remittances – money sent from abroad. According to the study conducted by the International Organization for Migration Moldova in partnership with the World Bank, while 26% of households recorded a decrease in the volume of remittances, another 20% reported an increase in money received from their relatives working abroad, and 58% did not feel any change.

How remittances from abroad evolved in 2020

In 2020, around 1.5 billion USD were transferred to Moldova from abroad through licensed banks – the largest amount recorded in the last six years. For example, in 2019 the volume of remittances was 1.22 billion USD, in 2018 – 1.26 billion USD, and  in 2017, 1.19 billion USD were transferred from abroad.

The absolute record was set in 2008 when remittances reached $ 1.6 billion. According to the economic expert, Veaceslav Ioniță, many consider this trend paradoxical, because everyone believed that during the pandemic the remittances will decrease. As the expert explains this increase: “The real volume of remittances did not increase, it even registered a slight reduction. However, the remittances brought through official channels have increased. Thus, in 2020 the volume of remittances sent through official channels increased by 264 million USD compared to the previous year. It is the largest increase in remittance volume in the last 12 years. The last time we had a higher annual increase was in 2008 when official remittances increased by USD 442 million in a single year.”

In 2020, most transfers were made in euros – 62.1%, followed by transfers in US dollars – 35.8% and Russian rubles – 2.1%. During the 12 months of 2020, most of the money was transferred in September ($ 148.9 million), followed by December ($ 147.8 million), followed by June (143 million).

In December 2020, remittances increased by 36.9 percent compared to December 2019. According to geographical origin, most of the money came from the EU – a share of 46.8%, from the Commonwealth of Independent States – a share of 13.6%, and the rest of the world – a share of 39.6%. According to the International Organization for Migration, over 237 thousand families in Moldova receive money from relatives working abroad, and almost half of them depend entirely on remittances.

How many Moldovan citizens live abroad

Official data show that, on January 1, 2020, 742,458 Moldovan citizens were abroad in over 45 states, of which about 400,784 are women. Of these, 113,237 have been abroad for over three years.

According to Eurostat data, at the end of 2019, residence permits in the European Union had more than 195,000 Moldovan citizens. Most permits were issued by Italy (over 119,000), followed by Spain (16,122) and Germany (12,713), and the fewest Moldovans with official EU residence permits are in Iceland (14 people).

On January 1, 2021, the number of Moldovan citizens that went abroad to a permanent place of residence was 109,953 people. Most of them are in Russia (37,344), Ukraine (26,750), the United States (17,026) and Germany (14,025).

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