CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

In recent decades, international and civil society organizations, as well as researchers from several fields, have highlighted the growing vulnerability of many international migrants and the significance and pervasiveness of the multiple risks they face. Indeed, although people often decide to migrate in order to improve their living standards, the spaces they travel through and arrive in are risky.
The notion of risk can be understood in different ways: being at risk or taking risks. On the one hand, the study of being at risk relies on the observation of vulnerabilities in a natural, political, or social environment, through the study of living and working conditions in general and by focusing on particular subgroups. Social sciences have approached this topic by focusing, for example, on the society’s capacity to respond to a precarious situation — resilience — or to protect its members in a homogeneous or non-homogeneous way (integration, social protection), and thus to be a society (“faire société”). In the particular case of migrants, a substantial share of them faces vulnerabilities: travel trauma, poor material and immaterial conditions in the destination country, loss of landmarks or social ties with relatives, lack of access to the healthcare system (Berchet and Jusot, 2009; Cognet et al., 2012; Zimmerman et al., 2011). This favors accidents and health deterioration that imply high risks of death in a migratory context, either during the journey to or while in the host country (Canu…


‪This article studies formal and informal risk-mitigating practices among Central Asian labor migrants in Moscow. The migration context is inherently uncertain, implying that migrants may try to protect themselves against potential risks by resorting to insurance mechanisms. However, migration is a unique situation that raises a number of questions. First of all, do formal protective institutions or insurance markets exist in the country of arrival? Secondly, if state or market insurance schemes exist, are they accessible to all migrants? What do at-risk labor migrants do when they cannot rely on formal schemes? Central Asian people are used to relying on social networks and informal practices in their home country. Previous articles have shown that these informal networks may be transposed in a migratory context, suggesting that informal risk-mitigating practices can be a substitute for formal insurance schemes and act as a social safety net for precarious migrants not covered by social security or insurance contracts. In this paper, we investigate the relationship between informal and formal insurance schemes and whether these can act as a substitute or complement among Tajikistani and Uzbekistani migrants, based on a survey of 1,213 labor migrants in Moscow.‪

  • migration
  • Central Asia
  • vulnerabilities
  • risk
  • Russia
  • informal insurance
Sandra Pellet
Associate professor in Economics, Université Paris Est Créteil, Mail des Mèches, rue Poëte et Sellier, 94000 Créteil, France. Research teams ERUDITE and The French Collaborative Institute on Migration (CI Migration);;
Marine de Talancé
Associate professor in Economics, Université Gustave Eiffel, 5 boulevard Descartes, Champs-sur-Marne, 77454 Marne-la-Vallée, France. Research teams ERUDITE and LEDa [260];;
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