Consequences of post-Brexit migration policy for Ukraine

Author : Georgiy Kuhaleyshvili

Source : 112 Ukraine

British government will pursue a new migration policy aimed at attracting exclusively highly qualified foreigners to the country with advanced knowledge of English, education, and work experience for specific vacancies
09:00, 24 February 2020

The Guardian

British media are discussing toughening of the migration regime after the end of Brexit transition period by the beginning of 2021. Starting January next year, the British government will pursue a new migration policy aimed at attracting exclusively highly qualified foreigners to the country with advanced knowledge of English, education, and work experience for specific vacancies.

In order to migrate to the UK, you will need to score a sufficient number of points (70), which will be awarded depending on the level of English proficiency, the availability of a job offer with a salary of at least £ 25.600 per year, and a Ph.D., preference will be given to people with higher technical education, with advanced degrees, mathematicians, and IT specialists.

Related: Johnson promised British that Brexit will lead to national revival

On February 20, the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced the Global Talent program, which will allow foreign scientists and mathematicians to obtain visas and confirm their diplomas in an accelerated mode for employment in the UK.

The British authorities borrowed the experience of Australia, where a similar migration policy is being pursued. Migration reform is expected to reduce the influx of low-skilled labor into the UK. The new rules apply to all, without exception, including more than 3 million citizens from EU member states who live and work in the UK.

Concerns about the new migration policy were expressed by the Royal College of Nursing, the National Union of Farmers, the Federation of Beverage and Food Producers, since foreign workers, including from Ukraine, are actively used in the field of medicine, agriculture and the food industry. However, the British government believes that local employers should train 8.5 million unemployed Britons to their requirements and employ, rather than looking for cheap labor abroad.

Implications for Ukrainians in the UK

According to the Association of Ukrainians of the UK, up to 100,000 ethnic Ukrainians live and work in the United Kingdom, both born in the country and those who are there for permanent residence or just go to work. In 2018, about 8,000 citizens of Ukraine got a job in the UK.

Related: UK leaves EU: What Brexit means for London, Brussels, and Kyiv

Much less than migrants from India (829,000), Poland (695,000), Pakistan (522,000), Ireland (390,000), Italy (297,000) or Romania (411,000). Not all Ukrainian labor migrants, like their colleagues from other countries, would be able to fit into the realities of the new migration policy of the UK.

Men mostly go to work on construction sites, and women get jobs as house cleaners and nurses. Mostly builders earn 25,200 pounds a year. The average salary of a nurse is 23,000 pounds per year. Foreign workers of the most popular professions among Ukrainian migrants fall into the category of low-skilled labor, which will be denied visas.

The situation in the agricultural sector of the UK, where Ukrainian citizens also involved, is different. The British government made an exception for seasonal agricultural workers and allowed British farmers to attract up to 10,000 migrants a year.

Apparently, Johnson made a compromise with the National Union of Farmers, which implements a pilot program to attract foreign citizens to work. Their employment is carried out by the agencies Pro-Force and Concordia. In 2019, British farmers asked for permission to attract 30,000 labor migrants, claiming that there was no one to work on farms. In 2019, 2,500 citizens of Ukraine, Moldova, and Russia worked on the farms of Scotland and England.

Related: Ukrainian labor migrant brutally murdered roommate in Poland

Chance for IT specialists

Johnson’s new migration policy gives Ukrainian scientists, IT specialists, engineers, and mathematicians a chance to find work in the UK. Migration reform in the UK is focused on solving the shortage of 40,000 IT people.

Due to the shortage of skilled workers, the country's economy receives less than £ 60 billion a year. Most of all in the UK there are not enough specialists in the field of cybersecurity, data management, and business analysts with a bias in IT, software developers. More than half of British employers fill up the shortage of these personnel thanks to cooperation with freelancers.

In the UK, the salary for work in the high-tech sector is on average 5,000 dollars per month (47,500 pounds per year), and in Ukraine it amounts to 1,500-2,500 dollars per month. In 2019, the number of employees of IT companies in Ukraine increased from 58,000 to 63,000 people. Ukraine has 40,000 technical specialists.

There are 10 universities in our country, including the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Kharkiv National University of Radio Electronics, Kharkiv National Economic University, which train specialists for high-tech industries, and their graduates look for work.

Related: Hryvnia strengthened due to labor migrants and high crop yield, - IMF

Polish factor

The risks for Ukrainian labor migrants are not so much the tightening of the migration regime in the UK, but the consequences of this measure for citizens of EU member states, primarily Poles, who are mainly engaged in construction, the healthcare system, hotel and restaurant business, trade, and food industry enterprises.

Since 2006, the UK has been the most popular destination for Polish labor migrants. Therefore, the shortage of jobs in Poland itself was compensated by from 900,000 to 2 million Ukrainian workers. However, it is likely that many Polish workers will have to leave Misty Albion and return home after 2021. After the start of the whole story with Brexit, 68,000 Poles left Britain.

In this case, competition in the Polish labor market will intensify. In order to protect the interests of their citizens, the Polish authorities will accept fewer labor migrants from Ukraine, preferring the employment of their people. Tens of thousands of Ukrainian migrants who earn from 500 to 1,500 dollars a month in Poland risk being left without work and livelihoods.

The reduction in remittances of Ukrainian migrants will negatively affect the Ukrainian economy. In 2019, labor migrants transferred over 10 billion dollars to Ukraine and became one of the key sources of replenishment of the state treasury along with the export of metallurgy and agricultural products. In this situation, Polish employers themselves are not interested, who are interested in working with Ukrainians, since they pay them 20% less than their compatriots.

Another softer scenario is possible. Citizens of European countries who are accustomed to good salaries in the UK are unlikely to be eager to return home and try to look for a better life in the most developed EU countries.

Related: Hryvnia strengthened due to labor migrants and high crop yield, - IMF

Besides the UK, Germany are very popular among the Poles. 706,000 Polish citizens work there. Given that the demand for foreign labor in Germany is over 200,000 people per year, the labor market of this country will be able to digest Polish migrants from the UK.

Although in this case, Ukrainians will have less chances of finding a job in Germany, where they pay two to three times more than in Poland for the same work. 43,000 Ukrainians officially work in Germany. The German government planned to simplify the procedure for employment and migration for people with secondary specialized education from the countries of the former Soviet Union. However, it is much easier to invite citizens from EU member states to work in conditions of freedom of movement.

Internal risks

Brexit and its expected consequences for European and Ukrainian migrants make it clear that labor migration is a road to nowhere, this process is fraught with a lot of risks, and it can in no way be one of the pillars on which the Ukrainian economy rests.

Related: British PM to introduce new restrictions on low-skilled migrants after Brexit

The government of Oleksiy Honcharuk sets goals to create 200,000 jobs this year, and a million over the next five years, by attracting 50 billion dollars  of foreign investment in the economy and improving the conditions for doing business. Zelensky’s team promised to achieve economic growth of 40% in five years. How to achieve this remains a mystery. Investors love stability, which Ukraine does not have in the context of the ongoing hostilities in Donbas through the efforts of Russia and flourishing corruption.

Therefore, in the case of return to Ukraine, the workers from Poland will intensify competition in the local labor market. Specialists who, due to various circumstances, do not consider the prospects of migration and work abroad, will find it even more difficult to look for work.

Related: Over 500 illegal immigrants detained for fictitious employment in Poland

Without any work, university graduates may be. Some of yesterday’s students, having failed to get a job in Ukraine, go to Poland to do dirty work in order not to sit idle.

An increase in the number of unemployed will provoke an increase in social tension and anti-government sentiment in the absence of a significant improvement in the economic situation, the growth of business activity and the creation of new jobs. After all, the critical mass migrates first of all, due to the dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs in the country. Otherwise, a social explosion is inevitable.

Related: Ukrainian labor migrants transferred USD 12 billion to motherland in 2019

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