American University of Central Asia - AUCA - “Re-entering” experience among labor migrants in Kyrgyzstan

Research topic: “Re-entering” experience among labor migrants in Kyrgyzstan: Issues of reverse culture-shock, readjustment, and conflicting expectations

by Nazgul Irisova, Senior Student, Psychology Department, AUCA

Supervisor: Elena Kim, Assistant Professor, Psychology Department

This research aims to study reverse culture-shock, readjustment issues among female labor migrants in Kyrgyzstan. During the last 2 years single labor migrant women were stigmatized as bad girls by the group so called “Patriots’ in Russia. Young unmarried women are stigmatized by the society because of being away for a long time, and there can be cases when unmarried women stigmatized by themselves. Labor migrants come back from the host country and it is the time of the re-entry experience to home community and culture. It is the time when they need some support and help. The research will look at two types of stigmatization such as self-stigmatization and perceived by the society.

According to the report of the International Organization for Migration, in 2011 more than 500,000 left Kyrgyzstan for Russia. Many labor migrants are working in the areas as trading, building, transportation, agriculture, and service sector ( In the beginning of 21st century when migration started to be actively practice, majority of migrants were men in Kyrgyzstan and women were perceived as the pessimist migrant or follower, but nowadays women migrate by themselves and work as men. According to the review of the Ministry of Social Development (2003), the age of unemployed women in Kyrgyzstan vary from 17 to 54 year old. Especially, it is hard for young women who don’t have work experience and most of them are from countryside and small cities and it makes them to migrate in order to earn and send remittances home. Interesting fact is that about 59% of migration is made by women (Min. Soc. of Dev.KG). Labor migration gives new opportunities to women as career development, education, and independence. While being in migration, labor migrants face problems such as discrimination, or issues with documentation, job, and language. As it was said by IOL (International Organization of Labor), most of labor migrants are from South part of Kyrgyzstan because of high level of unemployment in the regions of the country. When labor migrants return after long time to their home cities and villages, migrants have feeling of re-entering to home community. During this time, there could be some changes in values, traditions in the community; however, the view point of the labor migrant had been also changed while being away. There were only few research about reverse culture –shock and readjustment, but it was about students who went abroad to study. The example was provided by Mooradian,B., (n/d), she told about Japanese students who went to the USA to study in language camps for several months, the students told that their identity had been changed and they did not feel Japanese no longer. However, if we look at migration process itself, there are a lot of research about it and the issues that migrants face while being abroad, unfortunately, there was only few research carried out in Kyrgyzstan, where it was looked at the social and cultural adaptation of labor migrants in general. The researchers described that Labor migrants come back to Kyrgyzstan with difficulties to adapt back to Kyrgyz Culture. Moreover, in the interviews migrants mentioned that no one wanted to listen or unwilling to help, and that is why they want to go back to a host country. At the end of their interviews, the majority noted that it would be better to have some kind of seminars and psychological consultations in order to readjust to the culture ( It is very important to study this sphere because migration is the process that was going before, it is going now very actively, and of course it will be going on forever. During all these time migrant or just a person who were living for a long time in a host community need attention. Not only labor migrants face those issues such as reverse culture-shock or readjustment, but even soldiers and students who were abroad and army. All of those groups of people have to have some time in order to readjust to home community. During this readjustment all labor migrants, soldiers, or students feel themselves as being in someone’s plate, it looks that it is not theirs. Many of them experience anxiety, frustration, clinical depression, or people just isolate because no one can understand or listen to them. It is time when they need a real social and psychological support. Unfortunately, in Kyrgyzstan the Government or any NGOs do not provide this type of help.

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