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Ukrainians’ labour migration abroad: advantages and challenges for Ukraine

Ukrainians’ labour migration abroad: advantages and challenges for Ukraine

Labour migration is a usual process that enables the workforce to satisfy its economic needs. However employment in a certain city or region within your own country and work abroad are not the same things. Although the latter may provide better remuneration, it hides risks and certain negative effects for the country of origin of labor migrants.

For instance, the number of Ukrainian labour migrants abroad comprises 2,5-3 mln. At the same time, the EU member states like Poland, the Czech Republic and Italy are usually the major destination countries for Ukrainian labour migrants.

The key reason for labour migration is better remuneration. For example, according to the survey, carried out by the Polish company Gremi Personal, 80,6% of Ukrainians living in Poland (sample includes 1100 respondents) believe that the main advantage of working there is higher level of remuneration than in Ukraine. A stable economic situation in the country of employment is also important for 27,9% of Ukrainians.

Despite the better economic attractiveness of working abroad, labour migration may contribute to the development of a country where migrants have come from. For instance, according to Jerzy Pieńkowski, the economist of the Directorate‑General for Economic and Financial Affairs within the European Commission, migrants’ remittances to Ukraine comprised $11,9 bln in 2019 and this was equivalent to 7,7% of GDP. Even the pandemic does not hinder the increase in remittances that have comprised $12,1 bln. The economist also mentions that in general the biggest economic effects of remittances are better well-being of migrants’ families. For example, remittances accounted for 12% of the income of households.

In addition, according to the analytical report «Ukrainian Labour Migration to the EU: State of Play, Challenges and Solutions», during the period 2014-2019, Ukraine received $ 67,9 bln in remittances, with this source of income accounting, on average, for 9,5% of annual GDP. But such a positive effect does not cancel the fact that migrants contribute to greater development of a country’s economy where they work. For instance, according to estimates by the National bank of Poland, Ukrainian workers contributed to 13% growth of Poland’s GDP during 2013-2018. This is a greater economic effect than the one from remittances to Ukraine.

There are also issues with labour conditions abroad. According to the same report «Ukrainian Labour Migration to the EU: State of Play, Challenges and Solutions», the majority of Ukrainian labour migrants work in low-paid jobs. Moreover, poor working conditions, the absence of promotion, uncertainty relating to the duration of working day and social protection are common issues.

Also, employment of Ukrainian labour migrants is related to physical labour. For instance, the majority of labour migrants who are involved in physical work are men aged 26-35 years who usually work in the spheres of construction or in the industrial sector, logistics, agriculture, etc. On the contrary, three out of four Ukrainian labour migrants in Italy are women who work as housekeepers, caregivers or babysitters. The European Commission’s publication «The Impact of Labour Migration on the Ukrainian Economy» confirms this. It indicates that men comprise 70% of Ukrainian labour migrants and only in Italy the situation is different, i.e. 71% of labour migrants are women.

Despite possible negative effects of working abroad that have been mentioned above, labour migration affects the demographic situation in Ukraine. For example, according to the analytical paper «How many Ukrainians have departed and what can be done about this» prepared by the Center for Economic Strategy, annually 200 thousand Ukrainians, who have moved abroad, do not come back. This affects the number of population that is decreasing every year. For instance, according to the UN report «World Population Prospects 2019», it is predicted that the number of Ukraine’s population will comprise 40 mln 882 thousand in 2030, 35 mln 219 thousand in 2050 and 24 mln 413 thousand in 2100. The decrease in population is particularly affected by migration, especially the migration that took place before COVID-19. For example, due to migration 21512 persons left Ukraine forever in 2019 whereas 9316 left in 2020.

Another problem of Ukrainians’ labour migration abroad is manpower shortage. For instance, currently a number of those who are searching a job comprise less than 18% of proposed vacancies at the OLX Work portal. According to labour market experts, those spheres in which Ukrainians work abroad, namely logistics, construction and manufacturing, also need a workforce in Ukraine.

So those who plan to work abroad should consider all “pros” and “cons”. On the one hand, better remuneration and opportunities to support your family are obvious and unquestionable advantages of working abroad. On the other hand, it is unlikely that often inadequate working conditions and predominantly physical work are the peak of anybody’s ambitions. In addition, although enrichment of another country at the expense of one's own has an indirect impact on the economy of your country, but it also deepens the demographic crisis and manpower shortage that could have developed Ukraine’s economy by making it more stable and economically more attractive.