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strategic ambivalence above, selective


Academic year: 2023

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Director of the Political Science and International Relations master's program at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. Based on this puzzle, the given study analyzes the labor migration policy of Kazakhstan regarding skilled workers. It tries to explain what factors make Kazakhstan's labor migration policy ineffective in conditions where skilled foreign workers are needed.

However, the state and its institutions have no coherent vision of the national interest in labor migration. This allows the state to reconcile an economic need for more foreign skilled workers with a political demand for a more restrictive labor migration policy. In other words, the policy through which the state aims to achieve its goals appears to be ineffective.


What is the role of bureaucratic institutions in shaping the direction of implementation of labor immigration policies? This results in the state's inability to fill the quota for skilled foreign workers, or policy ineffectiveness. This study examines the nature of Kazakh immigration policy for highly skilled workers through the lens of institutional theory (Meyers 2000, Amenta 2005, Amenta and Ramsey 2010, March and Olsen 1989, Helmke and Levitsky 2004).

Strategic ambiguity in the official discourse of the state, or high-level political authorities, and in the policy on paper allows bureaucratic institutions' separate interests and behavior when managing labor migration in Kazakhstan. The economic need to attract more foreign specialists forces the government to seek policy liberalization, while the political demand to save legitimacy of its labor migration policy in the public eye, the state elite emphasizes the protective character of the policy. The second section turns to research that examines the role of the state in attracting foreign professionals.

No emphasis is placed on the political side of the matter and the practices of bureaucratic institutions. This thesis will show that the bureaucratic control is one of the factors that make the policy ineffective.

Table 1. Comparison of Work Permits Issued and the Size of the Quota in Kazakhstan,  2008-2016
Table 1. Comparison of Work Permits Issued and the Size of the Quota in Kazakhstan, 2008-2016

Institutional Setting of Labor Migration Management

The document shows that, according to the UN, Kazakhstan has approached the limit of population aging. Thus, it can be seen that the demographic problem will inevitably affect the economic development of the country. For example, Turkish companies are one of the first to invest in the construction sector in Kazakhstan.

This was done within the framework of the measures taken to improve the effectiveness of law enforcement in general and migration control in particular. According to the committee's official mandate, this body's functions include formulating migration policy and exercising control over compliance with labor immigration legislation. A foreign worker who has arrived in Kazakhstan must register at the local office of the Migration Police within five working days of arrival.

An interview with one of the representatives of the DESP in Astana shows, however, an ambivalence of the position of this institution regarding migration for employment reasons. But still, they can do little to influence the Commission's decision-making process. In practice, the number of foreign workers attracted should correspond to the number of Kazakhs trained/retrained or the number of jobs created.

The rules require that category 1 and/or 2 foreign workers may not account for more than 30 percent of the number of employees working in the company. One of the innovations in the migration police was that the officers started requiring that the documents not be completed manually but on the computer. One of the men noted a notable feature of the existing system: “It seems that Kazakhstan's migration policy is very good.

There is less negative feedback about another institution that employers deal with during the recruitment process – the Consular Service Department (CSD) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If they operate locally, they are less troubled by the state's long-term thinking about national economic development. Thus, divergence of interests and decentralization of decision-making lead to the twin dynamics of the policy implementation process.

Figure 1. Institutional Structure of Labor Migration Management in Kazakhstan
Figure 1. Institutional Structure of Labor Migration Management in Kazakhstan

The State Interest and Politics to Satisfy Its Interest

The flexibility of the quota mechanism then shows that the government's discourse, despite the quota, does not really limit employers' hiring capacity. This is one of the exceptions when the rules for issuing work permits do not apply. This delegation of authority by the state can be explained by the principal-agent model of bureaucratic decision-making (McCubbins, Noll, and Weingast 1987).

One of the ways out of this dilemma is for the state to use 'distortion techniques'. It is one of the ways in which the state maintains its legitimacy in managing migration (Boswell 2007). I then conclude that the phenomenon of strategic ambiguity can be a framework that can be used in various areas when studying Kazakhstan.

The analysis shows that ambiguity is not only reflected in the policy on paper, but also in the official discourse of the state authorities. Meanwhile, the share of foreign experts in Kazakhstan is 0.4 percent of the total number of employees.”. It can be seen then that in Kazakhstan public opinion on labor migration is no less important than the interests of the company.

It is necessary to be aware of how to work with the latest equipment and introduce new production methods. First, the quota formation mechanism will be improved by emphasizing the economic spheres where highly qualified workers are lacking. Indeed, linking the quota to the economically active population does not reflect the current needs of the labor market.

This justification seems questionable in light of the above findings that the government has a direct interest in liberalization.

What Makes the Policy Ineffective?

Kazakh labor migration management is a decentralized structure: the functions of selection and control of migrants are spread across various bureaucratic institutions. This makes it necessary to examine not only the organizational interests of the implementing institutions, but also the personal preferences of bureaucrats for a particular policy outcome. They have their own organizational preferences for certain policy directions that differ from what the state wants.

Meanwhile, the state is trying to liberalize labor migration policy to attract more foreign skilled workers. On the other hand, the analysis has revealed that the political institutions cannot be seen separately from the individual considerations that govern the behavior of the bureaucrats of the state institutions. Although an illegal act, it benefits the national interest of rapid economic growth but conflicts with the bureaucrats' organizational interests.

Strategic ambiguity helps the state simultaneously pursue two competing goals: attracting skilled foreign workers and protecting the national labor market. As the findings illustrate, regardless of the authoritarian character of the ruling regime, public opinion plays an important role in government rhetoric and practices regarding employment migration. However, the goal of entering the thirty best economically competitive countries in the world pushes the state to look for ways that allow it to bypass the obstacle of public opinion.

Top-down ambiguity has allowed bureaucrats to be selective in implementing labor migration policies. This tactic, described by Allina-Pisano as a “sub rosa resistance” (2005), undermines the state's efforts to make Kazakhstan a magnet for foreign professionals. Thus, by bringing about formal rather than real transformations (Allina-Pisano 2005), bureaucrats interfere with the state's realization of the national interest of rapid economic development.

I conclude that decentralized decision-making realized in the context of strategic ambiguity affects the actual policy outcomes (negatively): the state fails to attract as many foreign specialists as the national economy needs and to convince citizens in the reliability of protections envisaged in the policy.

Application of the Findings

Aslan revealed that it was mostly local officials who caused the worsening of the Kurdish naming problem. But he assumed that the Turkish-Kurdish armed conflict had a negative impact on Turkish officials' perception of the Kurds' expression of their cultural individualism. Without dismissing the environmental impact, I nevertheless argue that the institutional approach, which emphasizes the bureaucratic decision-making model, is more appropriate and effective when studying Kazakhstan's labor migration policy.

So, the division of the state into separate bureaucratic institutions provides a deeper and more detailed analysis of what controversies exist at different levels of migration governance. King and Smith's (2005) study argues that the issue of race has been inadequately represented in American political studies. However, many features of the American political order are inextricably linked to racial controversy.

Moreover, in relation to the concept of strategic ambiguity, the institutional approach can be considered a "strong theoretical base on which to conduct empirical research" of employment immigration policy in Kazakhstan (Dawson and Cohen as cited in King and Smith 2005, 78). While the issue of race affects various areas in American politics, so the phenomenon of strategic ambiguity and the influence of the dynamism of bureaucratic institutions permeates various spheres of Kazakhstan's public policy. This will help to understand the motives underlying the behavior of state actors, their interests and what.

This emphasizes not only bureaucrats' professional preferences as defined by the official mandates of institutions “where they sit” (Chen 2012), but also personal interests that may or may not align with the state's national interest. Means to an End: An Assessment of the Status-Blind Approach to Protecting the Rights of Undocumented Workers.” Sociological perspectives. The role of the state in attracting highly skilled migrants: the case of the Netherlands.” EIPAScope.

Economic Impacts of Migration: Receiving States.” Oxford Handbook of the Politics of International Migration, ed.


Table 1. Comparison of Work Permits Issued and the Size of the Quota in Kazakhstan,  2008-2016
Figure 1. Institutional Structure of Labor Migration Management in Kazakhstan

Ақпарат көздері


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