On 18 October, 2021, AmCham in Armenia held a Repatriation, Integration, Immigration (RII) Working Group (WG) special discussion in Boardroom, Armenia Marriott Hotel Yerevan. 8 RII WG participants, 2 special guests from the Office of the High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs, 1 special guest from Polixis and AmCham Executive Team were present at the meeting. The meeting was chaired by Gagik Gyulbudaghyan.
G. Gyulbudaghyan welcomed the participants, talked briefly about the topic giving the stage to Tigran Jrbashyan for a presentation on Demographic Situation in Armenia.
Tigran Jrbashyan presented the demographic situation in Armenia in detail, focusing on both workable-age groups and retirees of the population for a 10-year-period. As T. Jrbashyan noted the study of demographic situation in Armenia is done every January for already 12 years by Ameria Group of Companies.
Currently, the population is decreased when comparing the 17-21 age group with the 28-34 age group. This means that currently it is the smallest number of students and conscripts in Armenia for 20 years. The small size of this age group means that in other equal conditions in the coming years we should expect a decrease in the number of labor force, and about 8-10 years later, a sharp decline in birth rates. Births dropped from 43,000 in 2014 to 36,000 in 2019, and in 2030 it will decrease up to 21-26 thousand, which is because of the current low number of 17-21 years old people.
As a conclusion, T. Jrbashyan noted that the problem is not migration as much as it is the birth rate decrease and the expected situation for a ten years’ period in Armenia.
Varoujan Avetisyan talked about the problems and gaps the Repatriates face while returning to Armenia. He stated that significant immigration can happen only based on a national policy bringing an example of Stalin’s order in 1945 to organize the return of Armenians to their motherland Armenia.
He mentioned that Armenians not holding Armenian citizenship are considered foreign nationals, which discourages repatriation.
As of conclusion Varoujan Avedikian comes up with some policy questions that should be considered:
1. Should dual citizens be allowed to hold high-level public sector positions?
2. Should naturalization and residency procedures be revisited with the view of simplifying the procedures?
3. Should non-citizen Armenians enjoy the same benefits as those enjoyed by Armenian citizens?
4. How can licensing/authorization procedures be simplified for repatriates in professional fields?
5. How can the government help the blooming of repatriate SMEs? Any support programs?
6. Can non-citizen Armenians enjoy the same benefits as those enjoyed by Armenian citizens (Special housing/mortgage programs)?
7. How can repatriating Armenians transfer their pension assets to Armenia? Can non-citizen Armenians enjoy the same benefits as those enjoyed by Armenian citizens?
8. Can non-citizen Armenians enjoy the same benefits as those enjoyed by Armenian citizens?
9. If the non-citizen Armenian is from a country with which Armenian does not have a DTT, should the individual be taxed with a preferential regime?
10. What policies should the government adopt to attract mid-level personnel from the diaspora (arguably these positions being the most needed in the economy)?
11. How can Armenians from abroad enjoy Armenia’s financial services remotely? Due to their citizenship from “risk” countries (Iran, Syria, etc.) many Armenians are denied banking services in Armenia. How should this be changed?
12. Many Armenians from the Diaspora are from countries, with which Armenia does not have Bilateral Investment Treaties. How can Armenia still protect investments from those countries made by Armenian entrepreneurs?
13. What “handholding” policies must be adopted to both welcome repatriates and follow-up with their settling in (maybe a special Welcome Office at the airport)?
V. Avedikian finds that when implementing the project of repatriation, Armenians to target and attract are of the following target groups:
Active entrepreneurs, with a special focus on SMEs
Job seekers, interns, and volunteers
Students at all levels
Short-term tourists (up to 30 days)
Long-term tourists (30 – 360 days).