How to stop labor migration from Ukraine?

Author : Olena Holubeva

Source : 112 Ukraine

The massive departure of Ukrainians from the country in search of a better life has already caused an acute shortage of labor in all spheres
16:37, 28 August 2019

Open source

People leave, despite the fact that the work abroad does not always meet their expectations. Ukrainians are driven not only by the desire to earn money, but above all, to gain access to a quality standard of living, experts say. According to them, in order to keep Ukrainians at home, it is necessary to create not only material incentives in the country, but also to provide basic needs of people for safety, quality medicine, education, retirement benefits and professional future. Without this, it will not be possible to achieve the growth rates of the Ukrainian economy declared by President Zelensky. Moreover, if the outflow of labor is not stopped, our economy will collapse.

On the way to the abyss

The fact that there is an acute shortage of labor in all areas in Ukraine was stated by the National Bank in its July inflation report. The worst situation is in the construction sector and industry, the document says. At the same time, according to the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy of Poland, in 2018 in these types of activities the most of the Ukrainian labor migrants were engaged.

“The labor resource in Ukraine has already decreased to about 15 million people against 18 million in 2012-2013. This is not only due to migration, but also to the poor demographic situation in the country. It is urgently necessary to increase the labor resource by at least 10% ", said Advisor to the President of Ukraine Oleg Ustenko. He stressed that a more accurate forecast can be made only after the census.

According to Ustenko, Ukraine continues to lose labor resources, which carries serious risks and threats to the country. "If the current pace of the outflow of human resources continues, then fulfilling the ambitious task set by the president to sharply increase the rate of economic growth will not be feasible," said the Advisor. As you know, at a business forum in Turkey, Zelensky promised that the Ukrainian economy would grow at 5-7% per year.

Labor migration is one of the main threats to the ambitious goal of the president and his team. According to Oleg Ustenko, further deterioration of the situation poses serious threats to the entire social security system in the country and pension provision, in particular: “If the rate of labor outflow from the country will remain at the level that we have been observing since 2014, then in 2025 it will literally collapse, and the country will not be able to fulfill its social obligations. It is possible that Ukraine will have to switch to the Georgian model of granting pensions, absolutely not taking into account either the length of work or the level of income. Either - even worse - it will be necessary to move to the practice of some Central Asian countries in which they do not pay pensions at all, and the maintenance of elderly people is the responsibility of their relatives. In the future, the ongoing outflow of labor may become a factor of reducing confidence from the side of investors."

Ustenko stressed that President Zelensky has a deep understanding of the problem of labor migration and a vision for its solution.

What needs to be done to stop labor migration?

Of course, the main factor in overcoming the phenomenon of labor migration and its consequences is the economic growth, experts agree. But at the same time, an important component in motivating Ukrainians to stay home and work for the development of their country's economy is to satisfy not only material, but also other basic needs.

“As a powerful thing that could motivate Ukrainians to prefer work here, I would single out, first of all, the security that law enforcement agencies must provide. As a psychotherapist, I very often hear from my patients that they don’t feel themselves protected in Ukraine. This is taking place against the backdrop of the rampant crime that people hear about from the media and the lack of a strong police willing to protect. Many people tell me that they’re really afraid to leave home, especially at the evening and night. Regular reports of mining only increase the degree of fear - people fear that the threat may affect them or their loved ones. Among the stress factors are drunk drivers on the roads, including drivers in illegal taxis, who do not bear any responsibility for life and the health of passengers, who have every opportunity to do whatever they want with them and to go unpunished," said psychotherapist Oleksiy Shevtsov.

According to him, in European countries people are attracted by a much higher level of security and culture. There are expectations that their work will be valued higher. “The higher level of medicine in the EU also attracts. The dissatisfaction with the level of medical care in Ukraine is one of those factors that have a serious impact on people's desire to leave,” Shevtsov said.

Related: G20 calls mass migration major world challenge

Among other factors, cleanliness on city streets is important for people: the absence of garbage and people who are intoxicated on the streets, at metro stations, near the houses’ entrances. “The motivation for people to stay in Ukraine can be the creation of conditions for their children: Ukrainians would not leave in such masses in search of better opportunities if they had the opportunity to provide a child with a good kindergarten, or a school with decent conditions. The country should create conditions for professional realization: dancers, musicians, artists, scientists who have not found a worthy use of their abilities in Ukraine go abroad. There they get an opportunity for development they did not have in their native country," emphasizes Shevtsov.

“Along with this, it is important to create conditions that would help improve the demographic situation in the country. In particular, this includes an increase in payments for children, a decent amount of payments to women on maternity leave, benefits for medical care, and the creation of opportunities to provide a child in a good kindergarten", said Oleg Ustenko.

Life abroad is not always sweet

Despite the fact that the quality of life that Ukrainians strive for abroad is much higher, Ukrainian labor migrants cannot always use it. In the eyes of Polish employers, Ukrainians are at a lower level than Poles. Often they are offered lower wages. This is because Polish employers reasonably believe that Ukrainian labor migrants with no money have nowhere to go and they have no opportunity to protect their rights,” said Vitaliy Makhinko, the head of the Labor Solidarity trade union (the union protects the rights of labor migrants in Poland, where the Ukrainians work the most).

"Often in Poland, Ukrainians conclude so-called "garbage" agreements. Almost all of them give enormous power over a person to an employer and do not contain a description of the rights of a migrant worker. For example, a fine may be imposed if the person does not work for the entire period agreed. Ukrainians simply can’t refuse to sign the contract: they are placed in conditions when they are forced to either sign and accept the terms of the employer or spent a considerable amount for transport and return home. The Polish Inspectorate is not at all eager to protect Ukrainian migrants: there are many cases when employers do not pay them remuneration for work in excess of normal hours on weekends, while Ukrainians have nowhere to complain. After all, according to garbage agreements, a worker in the legislative field is not a worker at all", Makhinko notes. According to him, there are practically no opportunities for an ordinary Ukrainian to defend his rights in Poland. Very often, labor migrants left without money and not having a financial pillow to stay in a foreign country for some time, quit and simply run away to Ukraine. They do not have several years to wait for the results of their complaints to the Polish authorities, which, as a rule, work incredibly slowly.

The head of the union noted that according to his observations, the most violations of the rights of workers in Poland are registered in the field of construction and transportation.

Related: About 1.5 Ukrainian labor migrants stay in Poland

Along with such violations as the fine for premature leave or the refusal of the employer to pay for after-hours hours in Poland, there were completely egregious facts of violation of the rights of Ukrainian labor migrants. The story of the Ukrainian migrant, who felt sick, made a considerable resonance. His employer did not help him but ordered him to be taken to the forest where the person died. “So far there has been only one such tragic case with a fatal outcome, but there are many cases when an employee was injured, broke his arm or leg, and the Polish employer simply throws him outside. Of course, most often this happens to illegal migrants. We had an appeal from a man whom, on behalf of the employer, was taken to a bus stop and left there with a broken leg,” Makhinko said.

Earlier Makhinko pointed out that one of the most common violations is when Polish employers do not pay a person their last salary:“ The worker returns to Ukraine, for example on September 3, and he is told that money will be sent to him on September 15, but nothing really happens. If the inspection comes up to the company, the employer shrugs and says, here is the money - come and take it. And a person, for example, has run out of a visa or he came for 90 days according to a biometric passport (by law, then he must stay in Ukraine for at least 90 days). But when in three months he will return, no one will talk to him and no money will be returned".

Migrants who work in agriculture in Poland live especially hard. "Members of our union are not engaged in such work, and we advise no one to do this. In most cases, people have to live in terrible conditions in the villages. Often they are put in barracks, where dozens of people have one shower, the toilet is a cesspool on the street. But, for example, you earn good money for picking strawberries for several days, then it rains, and you sit with nothing, eat for the money already earned, "Makhinko said.

In order to find a job in those countries of Europe where wages and living standards are higher than in Poland, education and English are needed. Not all migrants can brag of it. For this reason, their fate is a disenfranchised life. “But if you were illegal migrant, you are not a person, you are just a shadow among people and you must remain a shadow. You are not protected at all, you cannot contact the police, rely on medical assistance. There was a case when Ukrainian who worked illegally broke his leg. He wasn’t helped at any medical institution in Norway because he didn’t have insurance. They all refused, "said expert on labor migration in Norway Denys Voronenkov.

In other countries, the situation with the protection of their rights is even worse than in Europe. “There have been no noticeable improvements in the situation with the protection of Ukrainian labor migrants abroad over the past year. This is especially acute in countries of Africa and the Middle East, where there is still a high probability of becoming a victim of trafficking, especially for women,” said the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union lawyer Yevgen Chekariov.

At the same time, in Russia, migrants from Ukraine have a chance to become a victim of criminals or the punitive machinery of law enforcement agencies. True, a simple fraud is also possible. Earlier, Yevgen Chekariov talked about a scheme when victims, having left Ukraine to earn money, ended up behind bars in Russian prisons for many years.

The people were offered to get a job as a courier. Those who agreed to work were given money so that they could go to Moscow, and there they were given the task of renting an apartment in a Russian city — it could be Krasnodar, Smolensk, Arkhangelsk, the cities of Siberia. After that, people began to receive tasks to deliver the goods to some point. After some time, people realized that they were actually transporting drugs (smoking mixes). They called the employer and said they refused to distribute them. These mixtures are prohibited both in Ukraine and in the Russian Federation. After the phone call, the police found people in 24 hours, found drugs and they ended up in jail. The Russian Federation punishes such activities from 4 to 20 years in prison. The Ukrainians who fell into the scheme received real terms from 3.5 years to 20. Many of them are in jail. Russian judges do not take into account their arguments that they were recruited and they practically became victims of human trafficking. The Helsinki Human Rights Union is moving people to places of imprisonment in Ukraine; about 30 people have already been transferred. At the same time, they cannot count on the annulment of the sentence. Most likely, the Ukrainian authorities are not unreasonably afraid that if the Ukrainian courts begin to cancel their sentences, the Russian authorities will refuse to transfer other prisoners.

In total, about 2 000 people were affected by the scheme. "Recently, people living in uncontrolled territories in Eastern Ukraine have begun to fall into this scheme. Apparently, the recruiters who previously operated in the controlled territory have moved there," Chekariov said. In controlled territory, criminal proceedings against recruiters were started.

To eliminate the damage caused to the Ukrainian economy by mass labor migration, it is necessary not only to create incentives with which people would be motivated to work in the country but also to attract labor from other countries, experts say.

“Along with creating motivating conditions within the country to overcome the phenomenon of labor migration, Ukraine should actively attract foreigners to the country. And in this regard, President Zelensky’s decisions to facilitate the process of obtaining passports to foreigners also have an economic relay. If the number of people dissatisfied with the domestic policy in Russia is high, then it could reasonably be assumed that at least some of them could well replenish our labor reserves," Ustenko said.

So far, in order to attract labor from other countries, we can use only dissatisfaction with politics: Ukraine cannot yet offer material motivation to new citizens. Until recently, per capita GDP in Ukraine, even at purchasing power parity, was several times lower than even in Russia and Belarus, Ustenko stated.

Related: Ukraine's MIA head Avakov and Israeli PM Netanyahu discussed migration policy


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