With the law on remote work, Russia risks IT employees fleeing at the turn of the year
Russia’s battered IT sector risks losing more workers in the new year due to proposed remote work legislation as authorities try to bring back some of the tens of thousands who have left out without prompting them to cut ties altogether.
With relatively portable jobs, IT workers featured prominently among the many Russians who fled after Moscow sent its army into Ukraine on February 24 and the hundreds of thousands who followed when military conscription began in September.
The government estimates that 100,000 IT specialists are currently working for Russian companies abroad.
Legislation is now being discussed for the beginning of next year which could ban remote work for some jobs.
Hawkish lawmakers, concerned that more Russian IT professionals working in NATO countries and inadvertently leaking sensitive security information, have proposed banning some IT professionals from leaving Russia.
But the Digital Ministry said in December that a total ban could make Russian IT firms less effective and therefore less competitive: “In the end, who can attract the most talented employees, including from abroad, wins.”
“Negotiates with Terrorists”
While many disaffected young Russians went to countries like Latvia, Georgia or Armenia where the Russian language is widespread, some made a bigger leap – to Argentina.
IT specialist Roman Tulnov, 36, said he has no plans to return to Russia under any circumstances.
“I’ve been wanting to leave for a long time. Everything became clear to me on February 24th. I understood that there is no longer life in Russia,” he said, crediting the mobilization with the opportunity to work six areas away and still keep his job.
“Before the mobilization, no one thought to give people the green light to move to who knows where.”
Vyacheslav Volodin, the powerful leader of Russia’s lower house of parliament, or the State Duma, has said he wants higher taxes on expatriate workers.
Product designer Yulia, 26, estimates that a quarter of her team would rather quit than be forced to return to Russia.
“Such a non-alternative choice is a bit like negotiating with terrorists: ‘Come back or we will make your job impossible, and for your company and your employees,'” she said.
Some expatriate Russians may also be prevented from paying taxes at all. The personal income tax of 13 percent is automatically reduced for Russian residents, but those who work for companies based in Russia from abroad are on their own.
Professional online poker player Sasha, 37, who also lives in Argentina, said he has now stopped paying Russian taxes.
“When you pay taxes, you support the state and its military expansion,” he said. “I’m not paying and I don’t intend to.”