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Friday, March 31, 2023

Months into war, Ukraine refugees struggle to join EU workforce

In the past, Liudmyla Chudyjovych worked as a lawyer in Ukraine and had lofty goals for the future. Before the Russian invasion, the 41-year-old mom had to prioritize her daughter’s safety above her own, leaving her work and her house behind.

Since leaving the western Ukrainian village of Stryj in May, Chudyjovych has settled in the Czech Republic and secured a new position. She was forced to accept a job as a cleaner at a hotel in Prague’s capital instead of pursuing a legal career.

It’s simply a new phase in my profession, she explained. “That’s just the way it is.”

Chudyjovych, one of the millions of refugees who have fled Ukraine since the Russian incursion on February 24, feels herself fortunate to even have a job. Chudyjovych said that she wasn’t proficient enough in either Czech or English but that she didn’t mind the task as long as she and her daughter were secure.

Many Ukrainian refugees are just now starting to find employment, and many are still suffering, despite the European Union introducing measures early in the war to make it easier for them to live and work in its 27 member states while they decide whether to apply for asylum or return home.

Frontex, the EU Border and Coast Guard Agency, estimates that 6.5 million Ukrainians have entered the EU since February. Many of them first flooded into nearby nations before moving on to more developed Western countries. Since then, around half have gone back to Ukraine.

According to the European Commission, only a very small percentage of individuals who stayed had joined the EU labor market by mid-June.

According to a recent assessment by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the number of Ukrainian refugees entering the EU is expected to be roughly twice as great as the number of people entering between 2014 and 2017, many of whom were escaping the Syrian civil conflict.

According to the report, the Czech Republic, which has the lowest unemployment rate in Europe, would welcome the greatest number of Ukrainian workers by year’s end, with a rise of 2.2%, followed by Poland and Estonia. The total number of workers in Europe will increase by almost 1.2 million, mostly in service-related fields, according to the analysis.

Nevertheless, the surge is not expected to lower wages or increase unemployment in European nations, many of which are experiencing a labor shortage in part because of their aging populations.

A negative impact on employment or salaries for the resident population “looks highly improbable” given the labor requirements of the major host nations, the research said.

The UN Refugee Agency and other rights organizations that deal with migration have praised the EU’s efforts to assist the Ukrainians. However, they also point out a significant contrast in how those fleeing violence or poverty in the Middle East, Africa, or Asia are treated. These individuals sometimes have to wait years before overcoming the obstacles to obtaining residency papers or work permits.

Even Nevertheless, finding employment for Ukrainian migrants will present several difficulties.

In addition to linguistic challenges, competent professionals from Ukraine sometimes lack the qualifications needed to get better-paying jobs. The fact that many must attend language and training courses before they can look for employment prospects stems from the possibility that their credentials won’t be accepted in their host nations.

Many refugees are women with children because it is illegal for males between the ages of 18 and 60 to leave Ukraine, which might make it more difficult for them to find employment. Despite the fact that the conflict is far from ended, many women are still considering their choices and may decide to go back home for the start of the school year in September, according to officials.

According to Marlena Malag, the Polish minister of labor and social policy, Poland has taken in approximately 1 million Ukrainian refugees, more than any other EU country, and only about a third of them have found employment. Some of them have found employment as nurses or Ukrainian language instructors in Polish schools, while others are servers or housekeepers.

Some of Portugal’s biggest businesses have particular hiring initiatives for Ukrainians, while the Institute for Employment and Professional Training provides free Portuguese language instruction.

About half of the 900,000 Ukrainian refugees in Germany have registered with the nation’s employment bureau, but it is unknown how many have really found employment. About half of migrants in Germany, according to the Mediendienst Integration group, hold university degrees, however it is unclear how many of them have been able to find employment in their specialties.

Before escaping with her kids, ages 11 and 13, and relocating in the German city of Cologne in March, Natalia Borysova served as the main editor of a morning TV show in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv. Although she had applied for low-paying jobs like cleaning, she finally chose to decline them in order to concentrate on her German studies.

The 41-year-old stated over WhatsApp, “I’m an optimist and I’m convinced that I will get a job after learning the language. “In the same field, albeit on a different scale than in Ukraine. Working at the minimum wage no longer makes sense to me.

Like other Ukrainian immigrants, Borysova receives a government subsidy from Germany to assist the family pay for food and lodging, but she stated that once she has mastered German, she plans to go back to work.

Chudyjovych is one of the 400,000 or so Ukrainians who have applied for special long-term visas in the Czech Republic that provide them access to employment, healthcare, education, and other advantages. According to the administration, around 80,000 people have already found jobs.

As part of a programme supported by the Mama Coffee company, 15 Ukrainian immigrants work alongside the Czech employees at the Background cafĂ© in Prague’s Old Town. Additionally, free language lessons and other services are offered to the refugees.

The 22-year-old Kyiv native Lisa Himich enjoys it and says “this place seems like home.”

Chudyjovych believes that working as a housekeeper is more preferable to experiencing continual anxiety and hearing air raid sirens.

Chudyjovych stated, “I assumed I would miss Ukraine and feel homesick, but that hasn’t occurred at all. “This place is serene, and I feel like a real person.”

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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