Russian IT professionals are moving abroad en masse to avoid military mobilisation, industry leaders have warned, despite official assurances that key technology workers will not be called up to fight in Ukraine.
The digital ministry says key IT workers will be exempted from joining the hundreds of thousands of reservists being drafted, after some 70,000 IT staff reportedly left in the weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
The RBC news outlet cited Nikolai Komlev, director at an IT industry association, as saying the new outflow of IT personnel may soon be two to three times greater than that exodus.
It said the head of domestic software group Russoft agreed with this forecast, but had cautioned that it was not possible to provide exact estimates of who had left or might leave.
The digital ministry has scrambled to help key tech workers avoid being called up, and issued guidelines late on Monday detailing how specific workers could avoid the draft.
It listed 195 IT and communications professions – including jobs in science, energy, transport and the media – whose workers it recommended should be exempt from mobilisation.
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However, one industry official told RBC that the guidelines were vague and would not cover everyone in the IT sector. Senior officials have anyway said that recruitment offices have been ignoring even basic eligibility criteria, such as age.
The large-scale drain of IT workers puts further pressure on Russia’s nascent tech industry, which has sought to capitalise on Western internet firms leaving Russia because of the war.
A survey of over 500 IT specialists by human resources firm Ventra indicated that 19% of IT managers had relocated some of their employees abroad in 2022.
The survey, conducted this month and published on Sept. 21, the day the mobilisation was announced, suggested that more than 30% of Russian IT professionals were planning to move abroad or had already gone.
A senior ruling party lawmaker warned in April that Russia’s IT industry, which employed about 1.7 million people last year, was experiencing personnel shortages.
(Reporting by Caleb Davis; Editing by Kevin Liffey)