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16 Sep, 2009 05:51

Expats expelled: crisis hits foreigners in Russia

As many companies in Russia have resorted to job cuts over the past twelve months to stay afloat, foreign workers were hit hard. More than two thirds of expats who came to Russia to work have lost their jobs.

With crashing markets and the freezing of loans the result of last September’s events, many foreigners working in Russia have found themselves uncertain about their future.

Reports show the number of expats has dropped by more than 70% – most of them top-level managers in the financial sector.

“First of all, companies are trying to cut down on their spending,” explained Natalya Kuratova, sales director of Kelly Services employment agency.

“Secondly, Russian managers, who have received an appropriate education, can better adapt to working in the financial crisis, because they’re more familiar with the environment of this country.”

However, if you call in on one of Moscow’s bars, which are tailored mostly for expats, spirits run high. Yet are they having a party during a plague, or stocking up on Dutch courage?

“There’s definitely going to be a decrease in the number of expats here, I’d say 30 to 40% of my friends left over the last six months,” said one bar patron. Another beer-drinker echoes his sentiments, agreeing that a lot of people have gone home due to the financial crisis.

Staffan Mattson, formerly a CEO of the Moscow branch of the international consulting company “Ikano”, is one of them. He is now a mostly stay-at-home dad of three. He says that when the crisis hit a year ago, he didn’t believe it would affect him.

“The immediate effect was that I had more time to spend with my family, which was positive. The negative would be more long-term, because I left a company in which I worked for many years and now I don’t know what I am going to do in the future,” he said.

Staffan added that he would like to stay in Russia and is currently looking at possible job opportunities. Despite the crisis, he believes the country is still attractive to foreign workers:

“I think Moscow is the most exciting place to work in the world. I can’t think of a better place to be working. It’s a fantastic place, and there are so many opportunities which have not yet been explored.”