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Comparative Migration Trends in Russian Arctic Cities: Igarka and Norilsk Open Access

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Located above the Arctic Circle, the Siberian cities of Igarka and Norilsk are among the scores of Arctic settlements established through Soviet central planning which are reinventing themselves to survive in the market economy. The transition of the 1990s replaced Soviet government support with neoliberal imperatives and forced the region's natural resource industry to restructure and shift costs to the municipalities, resulting in large scale outmigration from both cities. In this remote area marked by extreme climate and few transport links, both localities now employ migration management strategies to achieve their economic and social sustainability. Igarka and Norilsk attempt to shrink their large pensioner populations to minimize social service costs and grow the number of skilled professionals through selective recruiting, although they face challenges in their retention. However, over the years migration incentives have had the effect of retaining many pensioners, who are more sensitive to factors that discourage outmigration, such as high moving costs. They are also more likely to possess longstanding social networks and want to continue to earn the benefits on their pensions as residents of the northern regions. The political and economic climate has also changed significantly as corporate interests wax in importance compared to government influence. Powerful energy companies respond to changed incentives and improved technology to find more cost effective strategies to exploit the area's natural resources. They are downsizing their permanent workforce and turning instead to temporary shift workers. Year-round workers and large municipalities are giving way to smaller cities with satellite worksites. A new kind of company town is developing as well-compensated laborers from other parts of Russia leave their families behind and live in company camps on a rotating basis. The growing number of temporary workers spurs the drawdown of the permanent population in Igarka and Norilsk through means that affect the quality of life for remaining residents, and with major implications for future migration and settlement patterns in the region.

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