The mass exodus of Ukrainians due to the russian aggression will become a serious problem after the end of the war. Therefore, it is better to prepare for its resolution in advance. At least now we need to understand how to return those who left. Otherwise, all plans for the post-war economy’s recovery will be canceled due to a simple shortage of workforce.
Millions of refugees
According to the UN estimates, 11,1 million people left the country by the beginning of autumn 2022. Obviously, these data are not entirely correct, since the entire pre-war population was about 30 million (there is no exact statistics, an all-Ukrainian population census has not been conducted since 2001).
In early September, the Western media reported more than 6 million refugees from Ukraine in Poland alone. This figure was based on information from Polish border guards who registered the corresponding number of entries.
But this did not take into account the fact that at the same time, part of the Ukrainians crossed the border in the opposite direction. For example, only on September 2, 22 200 Ukrainians entered Poland, while 25 700 left for Ukraine.
One can also argue about whether it is correct to consider all those who crossed the Ukrainian border as refugees. Some of the migrants worked in Poland and other countries even before the war. And they could simply return to their workplace after a short vacation at home.
But there is no doubt that there are actually millions of refugees. According to the European Commission, 4.183 million Ukrainian citizens received a temporary protection status in the EU countries by the beginning of October 2022.
Ukrainian refugees are arriving in Germany
It is also obvious that the russian missile strikes in the autumn and the problems with the operation of the energy system contributed to the outflow increase. And they strengthened the decision not to return (at least until the end of the war) of those who managed to leave earlier.
According to Director of the Institute for Demography and Social Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine Ella Libanova, if the war drags on and the situation deteriorates, up to 5 million more may leave the country. That is, there are prerequisites for a second wave of military emigration.
The German authorities are of the same opinion. The Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration Reem Alabali-Radovan said that the country began to prepare for a possible new influx of refugees from Ukraine due to the "harsh military winter".
At the same time, 12 out of 16 federal states blocked the admission of new refugees due to their large number back in September.
However, according to German media, in October, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser held a meeting with representatives of municipalities regarding the conditions for accommodating new refugees.
The plans of official Berlin were also confirmed by Alabali-Radovan. "We must remain in close contact with neighboring countries and be ready to continue to receive people who are fleeing the war", - she said.
Germany expects that the flow of migrants from Ukraine will exceed the figures of 2015, when the country faced an influx of Syrian refugees.
So far, the study of the refugees’ mood is encouraging. According to a poll conducted by the Razumkov Centre at the end of August 2022, only 7% do not intend to return to Ukraine anyway, even after the end of the war.
A poll conducted by the Rating sociological group revealed 6% of such people in mid-October.
Therefore, things are not looking so bad for Ukraine (if the country can return the rest). But there are certain nuances that should be taken into account in order to predict further dynamics.
The answer to the question whether those who left will return after the war depends largely on how successfully they will be able to adapt to a new place. Foreign language environment, different legislation and mentality of locals play a huge role. It will also depend on whether it will be possible to find a good job and how children will cope with studying in a foreign language.
The geography of the first refugee wave is quite expansive: the UK, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and even Ireland. But most of the refugees settled in neighboring countries: the Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Lithuania. Poland has been and remains the undisputed leader in receiving Ukrainians fleeing the war.
Adaptation is different in each of these countries. Sometimes it’s harder, sometimes it’s easier. In any case, the key condition is knowledge of the language of the host country.
For example, in a November poll conducted among Ukrainian refugees by the UK Office for National Statistics, more than half of its respondents admitted that their knowledge of English is not enough to perform their work duties.
It is logical that 50% also mentioned difficulties in finding work and rented housing. The majority of those who managed to get a job does not work according to their education. Obviously, we are talking about work positions that do not require high qualifications. Therefore, the salary level there is appropriately low.
Nevertheless, 60% of refugees say they have enough money for themselves and their families for the next 3 months. During the previous ONS survey conducted in June, only 37% answered this way.
This confirms a simple truth: for the majority, getting used to a new country is only a matter of time. In June, less than 20% of Ukrainian refugees were able to find work in the UK. Nowadays this number is already 50%.
There is no doubt that this indicator will increase even more within the framework of the next survey in six months. This leads to the only logical conclusion: the longer the war lasts, the fewer refugees will want to return to Ukraine afterwards.
But, of course, not everything will depend on their desire. An equally important factor is the policy of host governments and how much they are interested in the refugees to stay there.
Polish authorities do not hide their desire to keep Ukrainian migrants, but not for humanitarian reasons.
Previously, Poland itself faced the mass exodus of its citizens to work in more developed countries, mainly Germany and the UK. The resulting shortage of labor resources in the economy requires some kind of compensation.
And the Ukrainians who fled the war are a great solution for the Polish government. Minister of Family, Labor and Social Policy Marlena Maląg announced in early November that after the start of the war, 650 000 Ukrainian refugees found work in Poland under a simplified procedure.
"This is very good news", - she said. According to the minister, the Polish labor market needs this workforce.
According to the EWL Migration Platform, 70% of Ukrainian refugees in Poland were able to find a job by mid-October. Considering that 1.36 million people received the official temporary protection status there, this is about 952 thousand people.
Moreover, the share of those who have a job in Poland is almost 1.5 times higher than in the UK. First of all, thanks to the lower language barrier.
However, there too, the majority of respondents were able to find jobs in low-skilled (low-paid) positions that do not require knowledge of the local language and work experience with a salary of €500-700 per month, according to the EWL report.
Ukrainian refugees earn more in the Czech Republic: €770-1250 per month. But getting a job there is much more difficult. According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs of the Czech Republic, 101 thousand out of 400 thousand who received the status of temporary protection were able to find a job (only 25%).
We may assume that those who went to the Czech Republic are among the most likely to return. Adaptation rate there is even worse than in the UK.
Where to put a comma?
After the end of the war, the phrase in the title of the article will be a dilemma for many refugees. Where they put the comma also depends on what the Ukrainian government offers.
It is clear that the offer must be comprehensive. It should primarily provide the solution of employment and housing issues.
The Cabinet of Ministers launched the Affordable Mortgage program on October 1. It is aimed at providing housing loans for a period of 20 years at 3% per annum in hryvnia. But nowadays, only the military, police and other security forces, as well as teachers, doctors and scientists can take advantage of such a tempting offer.
Undoubtedly, the program should be expanded to include refugees who have returned from abroad. Some of them lost their homes because of the war.
As for employment, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has earlier annonced the government’s intention to rely on the development of small and medium-sized businesses that can provide a high level of employment rate in a short time.
But a fiscal reform is needed in order for small and medium-sized businesses to be able to provide an acceptable level of salaries in addition to job offers. The reform should not only be implemented in terms of taxes, but also in terms of mandatory social contributions. It cannot be done overnight, so it is necessary to start the preparation for its implementation right now.
Vitaliy Krymov, OstroV