Presidential candidates promised to reduce tariffs, talked about the war, but almost everyone failed to pay attention to one of the biggest and most acute problems for the country – the topic of labor migration. And in vain, experts say, because the forced search for earnings abroad affects millions of Ukrainians.
“Petro Poroshenko does not even mention about the future, at all. His election campaign was built only on the existing achievements and on voter intimidation: if you don’t choose me, everything will be bad,” Serhiy Haidai, political strategist, assures. According to him, the topic of labor migration was casually touched by Yulia Tymoshenko and Oleksandr Shevchenko. Yuriy Boyko also spoke about it. However, for none of the candidates, this topic was number one issue, experts say. “Even if some candidates talked about labor migration, they were only passing on it,” Kost Bondarenko, head of the Ukrainian politics fund, notes.
It is also important that “none of the candidates proposed real programs for returning labor migrants back to Ukraine, practical mechanisms for attracting money earned by labor migrants to the real economy of Ukraine, for business development,” Ruslan Bortnyk, political consultant, noted. “Numerous programs were elaborated around the world to solve the problem of labor migration. There is an experience that was used in India, Portugal, and Ireland. They propose some experience in creating preferential conditions in which people find investing their money profitable,” said Bortnyk.
For example, statements by Yulia Tymoshenko about labor migration were emotional but did not contain any proposals for solving the problem as such. The politician called the labor migration of Ukrainians “mass and panic escape,” according to her data, about 9 million people leave the country to earn money seasonally (a very dubious figure). However, most candidates did not even bother to raise the problem.
The situation is actually very disturbing. Any politician should understand that there is a problem of labor migration in the country and it needs to be resolved, Serhiy Haidai is sure: “Migration is a very good litmus, which shows not only the standard of living in the country but speaks about the level of comfort. Many people do not want to live in the country and become labor migrants, so it demonstrates the complete failure and the lack of achievements in recent years.”
If we compare the results of the analysis of Ukraine’s living standards and living standards of the other countries, we will see powerful prerequisites for the growth of migration potential among Ukrainians in recent years. Ukraine’s National Academy of Sciences has prepared a corresponding National Report “Ukrainian Society: Migration Dimension.” The report said that the government’s rapid increase in the utility tariffs has coincided with a significant increase in food prices. All this happened against the background of the fact that the size of state social guarantees, standards, and the level of wages have not been revised for a long time. In such a situation, the factor of living standards had a very peculiar effect on the formation of the migration potential. Its growth was contributed not so much by poverty, but rather by a sharp deterioration in the life of the middle class, which is not used to tolerating it and has some opportunities for migration.
The report also emphasizes that the majority of countries, neighbors of Ukraine, have a noticeably greater level of remuneration. The size of both the minimum and the average salary in Ukraine is significantly lower compared to all EU countries, including Eastern Europe. An average monthly salary is 2,700 EUR in the companies in former East Germany and 3,300 EUR in Western Germany. The minimum wage in Germany is 1,600 EUR. In Poland, the average salary is 1,150 EUR, and the minimum is about 550 EUR. In Ukraine, as of January 1, 2019, the minimum wage is 150 USD, and the average salary is around 320 USD.
Mass labor migration of Ukrainians resulted in an acute shortage of workers, especially in those occupations, which are popular abroad. Labor migration has become one of the main reasons for the shortage of workers in the agricultural sector. In 2018, for the first time in the last 50 years, labor migration entered the top three main problems of the agrarian sphere (in addition to unavailability of bank loans, corruption, and corporate raid). Labor migration has also provoked replacement of the workers who left, experts say. The process is influenced by such a serious factor as low wages.
Bypassing such an important topic as labor migration, the politicians have lost a lot, experts assure. This topic could find a response from the voters and significantly add some electoral sympathies to them.