Expert’s commentary: Qualifications lead to emigration

Voskoboinyk Vasyl,  President of All-Ukrainian Association of International Employment Companies (Ukraine)

The outbreak of the coronavirus and related massive layoffs, falling wages and disappointments – the first months of 2020 have become a real test for millions of Ukrainians. People are uncertain, they do not have enough “financial cushion” and are already looking for a job abroad. Will the Ukrainians go abroad to work this year, will their number abroad increase or vice versa? We will try to answer these questions and develop a forecast for economic migration in 2020.


Unskilled work

According to the latest opinion polls, 38% of Ukrainians think of economic migration abroad. 45% of those planning to work abroad say they are forced to do so to meet their family’s minimum needs. This is due to the loss of a job at home and a fall in wages. Unlike EU citizens, who mostly have a “financial cushion” in the form of money on bank accounts and state social assistance, the average Ukrainian cannot afford a lack of work for several months because he does not have enough resources. He cannot count on help from his country, because Ukraine is in a difficult financial situation, which makes it impossible to provide help to millions of people who lost their jobs. Therefore, most Ukrainians see a way out of this difficult situation at work abroad. In countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the Baltic States, employers are waiting for Ukrainians with jobs already created.

We see here a full consensus, because there is a job that is paid higher than in Ukraine, and there are people who want to do this job. You just have to come and work there. Most Ukrainians do not know the languages of the countries to which they go to work, nor can they confirm the level of education they received at home. Therefore, in most cases they have to work with their hands and perform unskilled work. It is a hard physical work for 10-12 hours a day, but it allows them to earn 3-4 times more than at home. In addition, working legally, Ukrainians receive the same social security as the other inhabitants of the country of employment. Often, employers provide them with housing and sometimes even with food. In this way, unskilled migrants have the opportunity to work without being distracted to solve problems related to staying in another country. In 3-6 months they earn enough money, which is then taken home, where the employees rest from work. This way of life is much more profitable today than permanent residence in Ukraine and work for a minimum wage. In 2020, the number of unskilled labor migrants from Ukraine to European countries will increase significantly. At the same time, it should be understood that these people are quite mobile, their families are in Ukraine and therefore at any time are ready to change their orientation to other countries or stay at home if they find a job there.


Skilled workforce, young people and entrepreneurs

The next category are specialists who know foreign languages and have necessary for foreign employers education. They can be doctors, programmers, qualified employees – welders, electricians, locksmiths. These people have the opportunity to earn much more in Europe than at home. In addition, they often have the option of entering into a long-term employment contract and staying in the host country forever. And indeed, if you look at it from the point of view of the constant economic uncertainty of Ukrainians in their country, there is a good option for them – emigration and a peaceful, predictable life abroad. At least that’s what most of them think. This category also includes small business representatives who are constantly suffering from the oppression of various government agencies in Ukraine and cannot grow. European legislation guarantees sufficient protection for this category of citizens, which is why they also willingly go abroad to perform their favourite activities – to open small cafes, provide services, establish small-scale production of goods. There is another category of Ukrainians who are eager to go to the EU – young people who have grown up on European values, are ready to study and work, want to explore the world, love freedom and are accustomed to choosing their own way of life.

Young Ukrainians study at European universities and plan to stay in Europe forever during their studies. A very small percentage of young people return to Ukraine. For these people, the problem to live at home is that their values do not coincide with Ukrainian realities and that they feel uncomfortable living in their own country. In 2020, even more qualified employees, entrepreneurs and young people will look for opportunities to move to Europe and stay there as economic migrants. They do not want to wait for changes at home, because for the last 25 years they have been completely disappointed with attempts to build modern Ukraine. Attempts to limit migration by Ukrainian government officials are only irritating the public and will not be able to stop the migration process.

Summing up the migration trends of Ukrainians in 2020, I will add that the migration of labor from Ukraine will increase significantly after quarantine. European countries will remain the main migration destination. Unskilled migrants will continue to work abroad for no more than six months and then return home. Skilled labor, entrepreneurs and young people will look for opportunities to emigrate from Ukraine forever. The scale of migration will depend on how bad the Ukrainian economy will suffer and whether economic recovery will occur in European countries.