Since we don't yet have internet at home (though much drama and trauma trying to get it there), we miss out on IM and online chats with family and friends who we've not spoken to since we've been here. We also often miss out on weekend news. So, Monday is kind of like Christmas when I get to come to the office and see what I missed (namely football scores and seeing that my beloved Hendrick Motorsports dominated the Nextel Cup race on Sunday).
But, the weekend also gives me a chance to walk around downtown and see the sites. One thing that escapes attention as you're walking around beautiful, cultural Chisinau is that there aren't as many people as there "should" be.
20-25% of the population of Moldova live abroad. That's about one in 4! I used to think it was ridiculous that 10% of Mexico lives in the U.S., but Moldova's numbers take the cake. 47% of Moldovans report having a family member abroad. 800,000 Moldovans are currently waiting for Romanian passports so they can get into the EU.
Imagine if 1/4 of the cars you see in your town were gone. Imagine with each car went someone with a proven skill. 1/4 of the plumbers, electricians, mechanics, etc. Your town would be much smaller and good help would be harder to find.
As I've discussed before, that 25% of of the population abroad sends a lot of money home ($475 million from Jan. to June). That is primarily what drives the economic prosperity and growth I see around me in Chisinau, and accounts for over 27% of Moldova's GDP. Only Togo relies on remittances more than Moldova.
Who is migrating? Mostly skilled workers, and reports indicate that more people are migrating from Chisinau than from the villages (villagers migrate to Chisinau first, then abroad). The government reports that the average wage in Moldova is about $160/month. This is above the $2.15/day poverty line that the World Bank uses, but is still the lowest in Europe.
The ILO estimates that a Moldovan can make, on average, $800/month in Europe (and reports the average wage in Moldova is actually around $120/month). Pretty big gap, so it's no wonder people leave.
It's estimated that 1 in 9 Moldovan children will grow up without at least 1 parent (though given the above information I think that number is too small). This causes all kinds of obvious social problems.
But, practically, this means that if you want to find a skilled laborer for anything you're going to have a tough time. Joni's language teacher is having her apartment re-done because it was done so poorly and incompetently the first time. Everyone tells you that you can't trust who you hire because no one knows if they're a quality worker or not. You never know what you're going to get! "If they were quality, they would be working in Europe and not in Moldova."
Obviously, microcredit offers quality workers a chance to start businesses, hire skilled workers, and develop a workforce in Moldova.
But, our internet site project also offers some hope. We hope to eventually offer an evaluation system (kind of like E-Bay does) for customers to rate the services of the people who post advertisements. This will allow good workers to distinguish themselves and grow their businesses. Competition means improvement all around. We're excited about that possibility.
Please continue to pray for the site's development. We have a target date of the end of October for it to be up and running. Pray for Vasile, the chief architect, to have time and ability to work on it. There's much work to be done!