Oxford College and M-Vector conducted a study on the role of remittances in Kyrgyzstan
In 2021-2023, M-Vector and St. Hugh’s College conducted several waves of research on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Kyrgyzstan on remittances from migrants.
The final wave of research, which included focus group discussions with residents of Bishkek, Osh, and Osh Oblast in April 2023, showed that remittances from relatives from abroad still play a significant role in the budget of many Kyrgyz families. This money becomes an important resource for improving the quality of life, but primarily, according to respondents, it is spent on additional education for children and medical services. For people in rural areas, remittances are a source of funds to ensure the sustainability of their households. The majority of survey participants count on remittances as a permanent additional source of income and expect significant difficulties if it disappears. The experience of the pandemic, when the number and size of remittances in many households declined, showed that households' quality of life declined in the absence of remittances, but these difficulties were manageable.
Participants noted that remittances from labor migrants from abroad make them more independent of the state. They do not count on direct assistance from the state, but they believe that the state can facilitate the transfer processes by reaching certain agreements with Russia.
Despite all the advantages of remittances, the participants talked about the downside, too. Some of them claimed that remittance recipients are more likely to have to pay bribes because they are more likely to be expected to do so, sometimes even with direct hints. According to the experience of the participants, these situations mostly occur in maternity hospitals, kindergartens, and hospitals.
The data from the study will form part of a larger project on how remittances shape interaction with the state. The findings can help us to understand the pressures vulnerable households, dependent on remittances from migrants, might face. This, in turn, will help us develop programs to address the needs of these remittance recipients when their remittances decline.
Note: St. Hugh's College was founded in 1886 as a women's college. It is one of the 39 colleges that make up the University of Oxford. You can read more about St. Hugh's College and its activities at st-hughs.ox.ac.uk.