The attack on the Ukraine by Russia has sent shock waves around the world. There have been tremendous casualties and substantial destruction, and millions have been displaced as they attempt to escape the invasion. Surrounding countries are thus dealing with the burden of Ukrainian refugees, with most offering as much support as they can. However, in an effort to survive, these individuals not only need housing and food, but also a means of lasting support. Many are therefore seeking employment opportunities for refugees in neighboring nations. Unfortunately, barriers to employment for refugees have limited their success.
Despite these barriers, innovative ideas and programs are emerging. In some cases, countries are welcoming Ukrainian refugees due to preexisting labor shortages. In others, technology is helping match job-seekers with employment opportunities for refugees. (Bold Business has a list of essential apps for networking and job-seeking–check it out here!) While there remains a significant amount of improvement in these programs, they have helped fast-track job placement. And if refugee residence in these foreign nations becomes extended, they will play an important role in long-term stability. This pertains not only refugees but to host nations as well.
“We’ve been amazed to have big and small companies advertising in every industry, from programmers to farmers to bars. People want to do anything they can to help.” – Christina Kaesshoefer, Co-founder of JobAidUkraine
A Profile of the Ukrainian Refugee Workforce
In many instances, employment opportunities for refugees can be hard to find because of poor qualifications. But this is often not the case for those fleeing the Ukraine. The Ukraine is well recognized as having a highly skilled workforce. In fact, roughly 70% of those in the Ukraine have secondary or advanced educational degrees and skills. They also have a sizable number of professionals in the technology and engineering sectors. Over the years, this has attracted many large tech firms to outsource jobs to the Ukraine. Thus, at first glance, barriers to employment for refugees leaving the Ukraine may not appear so significant.
This is not the case. Gender differences exist to a significant degree, and more men than women have higher educational degrees and skills. The bulk of those fleeing the Ukraine at the present time are women and children. Fathers and husbands are taking up arms to defend their country, taking their job skills with them. That doesn’t mean that women lack knowledge and skills. But employment opportunities for refugees who are women are notably less than their male counterparts. Overcoming these barriers to employment for refugees are thus needed. With this in mind, many groups have developed strategies to assist these unfortunate individuals.
“Refugees who think they want to go back soon may be more permanent or long term than they think now.” – Giovanni Peri, Director of the Global Migration Center, University of California, Davis
Notable Barriers to Employment for Refugees
Gender differences in skills and education are not the only barriers to employment for refugees from the Ukraine. In addition, many expect to only need temporary work as they hope to soon return to their country. Of course, that may not be the case if the conflict becomes extended and/or their homes destroyed. Regardless, some employers may be more hesitant to hire refugees with this mentality. In turn, this could limit employment opportunities for refugees despite both employers and workers potentially benefiting from the arrangement.
The other notable barriers to employment for refugees involve childcare. In many countries accepting Ukrainian refugees, schools are quickly reaching capacity. Therefore, if refugee children are unable to attend school, this limits work options for their mothers. In addition, most Ukrainian refugees speak Russian, which is not a big problem for most Eastern European countries. But for others like Germany, France and Portugal, language barriers to employment for refugees can be notable. These represent formidable obstacles that need to be addressed through innovative workforce strategies.
“This will help solve our labor shortage problem, even temporarily, and our people are not afraid that they will lose their own jobs because we have enough for everyone.” – Inga Balnanosiene, Director of Employment Services, Lithuanian Labor Ministry
Bold Programs and Ideas for Refugee Employment
Despite the situation, several countries and individuals are stepping up to help find employment opportunities for refugees. Some of these are approaching the problems from a more general perspective while others address specific issues. In each case, these programs are reducing barriers to employment for refugees while helping employers as well. The following list a few of these programs and strategies.
- Adecco – This global temporary staffing agency has stepped up to assist with job placement for many Ukrainian refugees. Using their inherent technologies, Adecco currently has over 900 Ukrainian refugees and 200 employers on their site.
- JobAidUkraine – Developed by several entrepreneurs, this program originated in Germany. It attempts to provide assistance with relocation as well as job placement. To date, the site has experienced over 30,000 online visitors with more than 5,000 jobs listed.
- Grafton Recruitment – The Czech republic as a whole has acquired roughly 270,000 Ukrainian refugees since the war began. But it also has more than 364,000 job vacancies with seasonal and temp work available. Grafton Recruitment in Prague has already placed 200 women in employment opportunities for women.
- Portuguese Programs – Portugal has a number of jobs available for Ukrainian refugees. Specifically, they offer positions in IT, transportation, and hospitality. But language barriers to employment for refugees has been a limiting factor. This is why the Portuguese government is offering courses in language learning for refugees.
- Lithuanian Programs – For Lithuania, preexisting labor shortages before the war was a problem. Thus, the country welcomes Ukrainian refugees to help fill this void. But it too has experienced barriers to employment for refugees, mainly involving childcare. As a result, many businesses are arranging on-site childcare services to address the issue.
A United Effort to Offset Refugee Displacement
The displacement of millions of Ukrainian came as a surprise to everyone. The ramifications of recent events will be felt for a long time to come. But countries, businesses and individuals have risen to the challenge to address barriers to employment for refugees. Without jobs, the ability to survive is that much more challenging. That is why connecting employers with employment opportunities for refugees is so important. The unified effort show thus far is not only heartwarming but bold in nature. Continued pursuits in these directions will undoubtedly be needed as long as the conflict continues and likely months thereafter.