Russia risks driving IT workers away with remote work law

Russia risks driving IT workers away with remote work law
Russia risks driving IT workers away with remote work law
  • This content was produced in Russia, where law restricts coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine.

MOSCOW, Jan 2 (Reuters) – Russia’s struggling IT sector is at risk of losing more workers in the new year due to planned remote work legislation, as authorities try to bring back some of the tens of thousands of people who have gone abroad without encouraging them to break ties completely.

Having relatively portable jobs, IT workers figured prominently among the many Russians who fled after Moscow sent its army to Ukraine on February 24 and the hundreds of thousands who followed when a military call-up began in September.

The government estimates that 100,000 IT workers currently work for Russian companies abroad.

Now, legislation is being considered for the start of this year that could ban remote working for certain professions.

Warmongering lawmakers, concerned that more Russian IT professionals could end up working in NATO countries and inadvertently share sensitive security information, have proposed banning some IT specialists from leaving the Russia.

But the digital ministry said in December that a total ban could make Russian IT companies less efficient, and therefore less competitive: “Ultimately whoever can attract the most talented staff, including those from the stranger, will win”.

“NEGOTIATING WITH TERRORISTS”

While many disillusioned young Russians have traveled to countries like Latvia, Georgia or Armenia where the Russian language is widely spoken, several have taken a bigger leap – to Argentina.

IT specialist Roman Tulnov, 36, said he had no plans to return to Russia under any circumstances.

“I wanted to leave for a while. On February 24, everything became clear. I understood that there was no more life in Russia”, he said, attributing in particular to the mobilization the opportunity to work in six time zones while keeping his job.

“Before the mobilization, no one thought of giving the green light for people to move to who knows where.”

Vyacheslav Volodin, the powerful speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament or the State Duma, said he wanted to see higher taxation for workers who moved overseas.

Product designer Yulia, 26, said a quarter of her team would rather quit than return to Russia under duress.

“Such a non-alternative choice is a bit like negotiating with terrorists: ‘Come back or we will make it impossible for you, and for your company and your employees,’” she said.

Some expatriate Russians might also be deterred from paying taxes. Personal income tax of 13% is automatically levied on resident employees, but those working for Russian-based companies from abroad are left to fend for themselves.

Professional online poker player Sasha, 37, also living 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 have no intention of doing so.”

(This story has been corrected to say “this year” in paragraph four)

Reporting by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Gareth Jones

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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