About a million Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Germany since the beginning of the Russian invasion of their country. Many of them hoped to quickly find housing, financial support and a suitable job opportunity. But the matter was not as they initially thought, as many obstacles and difficulties stood in their way.
Some 900,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Germany since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. It is true that they have found security, but the job market prospects for them seem inadequate.
Under an EU directive, refugees from Ukraine have been granted protection status in the EU for three years, in addition to enabling them to obtain health insurance and ease access to the labor market.
350,000 Ukrainians are currently registered as job seekers in Germany, but many of them struggle to find work. The Munich-based Ifo Institute for Economic Research conducted a survey of nearly 1,000 Ukrainian refugees in June and found that 90 percent of respondents wanted to find work in Germany, but only half of them actually succeeded in finding work .
Andrei Chikanov, a 34-year-old Ukrainian, used to work as a product manager for an IT company. He arrived in Germany before the war, but his family had a hard time since they joined him in March.
Andrei’s sister is trying hard to find work in Germany and is “very frustrated”. Although she is fluent in English, she could not find work, due to the lack of demand for vacancies for English speakers.
The German language is a big obstacle
Germany suffers from a severe shortage of skilled labor in many sectors. The Federal Employment Agency reported almost 900,000 vacancies in Germany in June, mainly in transport, logistics, sales and healthcare.
Researchers at the Ifo institute conducted a survey targeting 1,000 managers of the human resources department in German companies from various sectors. The results of the survey showed that the lack of German language skills was the biggest obstacle to employing people with 83 percent.
Many Ukrainians are multilingual, but German is not among those they speak fluently. “Language skills are the most important challenge, it’s not only about German skills, but also English,” IFO researcher Titiana Panchenko told DW.
Many Ukrainians in the eastern part of the country learned Russian instead of English. Inadequate language skills were a reason why a third of Ukrainians surveyed by IFO chose to find work below their qualification level.
No proof of academic qualifications
More than 85 percent of people asked by IFO have either a college degree or vocational training. However, in order to work in Germany as a truck driver or a pharmacist, applicants must recognize their professional qualifications. Without official recognition of their Ukrainian diplomas, they are not allowed to work in Germany, which is another obstacle to integration.
Without academic qualifications or language skills, Ukrainians have no choice but to find work in sectors such as elderly care, especially as Germany’s aging population urgently needs healthcare workers.
The country’s Home Care and Nursing Association (VHBP) has raised the alarm about possible exploitation of untrained Ukrainian refugees. “They may be willing to work for a peep,” the association’s CEO, Daniel Schluer, told ARD.
Barrier to long-term commitment
Apart from educational levels and language skills, commitment to a long-term job was also an important barrier for Ukrainians to find work.
German HR managers have expressed concern that Ukrainian refugees will soon want to return home, which means a problem for German companies that tend to avoid losing employees, especially qualified employees, who often prefer not temporary solutions but rather job seekers .For a long time.
Olga Savitska, a 21-year-old young Ukrainian translator and artist, came to Germany in February. She told DW that her search for work here is “difficult”, and says she is “frustrated and anxious, as it is difficult to find a suitable job”.
Compared to the process of applying for a job in Ukraine, “responses to emails and phone calls are slow,” says Olga. Since she could not find a full-time job, she is now considering completing her studies at a German university.
Compared to previous waves of immigration and asylum in Germany, Ukrainians benefit from a much easier administrative process, which enables them to find work and housing, move freely and apply for material benefits.
On this issue, the difference is clear compared to the experience of the refugees who came from the Middle East in 2015. “The Ukrainians’ permits and papers were prepared quickly,” Abdullah Saleh, a refugee who arrived in Germany in 2015, told DW, explaining that he had to wait 18 months for registration and residence documents.
Abdullah adds that “the Ukrainians are white, it was clear how they would be treated,” adding, “I think there is a big difference between the treatment of Middle Easterners and Ukrainians in Germany.”
Perhaps the administrative process may now be faster for Ukrainians, says Andrei Chikanov, and it is still “a very long process, especially to obtain the necessary documents to work in Germany compared to other European countries”. He explained that his parents had waited three months and had not yet received the necessary documents they needed to legally enter the labor market.
EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson recently said that the number of Ukrainian refugees entering the European Union had fallen to pre-war levels, adding: “At the crossings between the European Union and Ukraine, the numbers have become similar to the pre-war levels. war, and the level before the Corona pandemic as well. People crossing normally.”
According to Frontex data, about half of the six million Ukrainian refugees who fled since February have returned home. The resumption of studies on September 1 could be a determining factor for many Ukrainian refugees currently in Germany to return home.
Caleb Larson DW / MB