PRAGUE (AP) — Liudmyla Chudyjovych, a former lawyer in Ukraine, has big plans for the future. That was before the Russian invasion forced the 41-year-old woman to put her daughter’s safety first, leaving her job and family.
After fleeing the town of Stryj in western Ukraine in May, Chudyjovych found a new job in the Czech Republic. But instead of working in law, she had to work as a housekeeper at a hotel in the capital Prague.
“It’s just a different phase of my career,” she said. “That’s it.”
As one of the millions of refugees who have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion on February 24, Chudyjovych considers himself lucky to have a job. Chudyjovych, who is not fluent in Czech or English, says she doesn’t mind the job as long as she and her daughter are safe.
Although the EU introduced regulations early in the war To make it easier for Ukrainian refugees to live and work in its 27 member states when deciding whether to seek asylum or return home, many are only now finding work — and many are still struggling.
About 6.5 million Ukrainians have entered the EU since February, according to Frontex, the EU’s border and coast guard agency, flocking to neighbouring countries before many moved to more prosperous countries in the West. About half of them have already returned to Ukraine.
According to the European Commission, as of mid-June, only a small fraction of those who stayed had entered the EU labor market.
recent OECD report Given the potential impact of Ukrainian refugees on the EU workforce, it is expected to double the inflow of refugees from 2014-2017, including many fleeing the war in Syria.
The study estimates that the Czech Republic, which has the lowest unemployment rate in Europe, will have the largest increase in Ukrainians by the end of the year, with an increase of 2.2%, followed by Poland and Estonia. The report said the total workforce in Europe will increase by about 1.2 million, mainly in the service sector.
Still, the influx of European countries, many of which face labor shortages partly due to ageing populations, is unlikely to lower wages or increase unemployment.
“A negative impact on the employment or wages of the resident population … seems unlikely, given the labour demand in major host countries,” the report concluded.
The EU’s efforts to help Ukrainians have won praise from the UN refugee agency and other rights groups dealing with migrants. But they also noted major differences in the treatment of people fleeing war or poverty in the Middle East, Africa or Asia, who often wait years to overcome barriers to obtaining a residence permit or work permit.
Still, Ukrainian refugees looking for work face many challenges.
In addition to language barriers, skilled workers from Ukraine often lack documentation to prove their professional qualifications for higher-paying jobs. Their diplomas may not be recognised in the host country, which means many have to take language and training courses in order to pursue professional opportunities.
With men between the ages of 18 and 60 banned from leaving Ukraine, many refugees are women with children, which can be another obstacle to finding work. While the war is far from over, many women are still weighing their options and may decide to go home when the school year begins in September, officials said.
In Poland, which hosts some 1 million Ukrainian refugees, more than any other EU country, just over a third have found jobs, according to Poland’s Labour and Social Policy Minister Marina Malag. Some work as nurses or Ukrainian teachers in Polish schools, while others work as housekeepers or waitresses.
In Portugal, some of the largest companies in the country offer special recruitment programmes for Ukrainians, while the Institute for Employment and Professional Training offers free Portuguese courses.
In Germany, about half of the roughly 900,000 Ukrainian refugees are registered with the country’s employment agency, but there is no data on how many actually found work. The Mediendienst Integration group, which tracks German immigrants, said about half had university degrees, but did not specify how many were able to work in their fields of expertise.
Natalia Borysova was the editor-in-chief of a morning TV show in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv before fleeing in March with her daughters, aged 11 and 13, and settling in Cologne, Germany. She applied for low-paying jobs like housekeeping, but ultimately decided to turn them down to focus on learning German.
“I’m an optimist and I believe I’ll get a job after learning the language,” the 41-year-old said via WhatsApp. “Maybe on a different level than Ukraine, but in the same field. Now, for the minimum wage Work means nothing to me.”
Borisova, like other Ukrainian refugees, receives stipends from the German government to help families pay for food and housing, but says she wants to return to work once she has mastered German.
Chudyjovych is one of about 400,000 Ukrainians in the Czech Republic who have registered for special long-term visas that give them access to work, health care, education and other benefits. Nearly 80,000 people have found work, the government said.
At the Background Cafe in Prague’s Old Town, 15 Ukrainian refugees work with Czech employees as part of a project sponsored by the Mama Coffee chain. Refugees also receive free language courses and other programs.
Lisa Himich, 22, from Kyiv, loves it and says “it feels like home here”.
For Chudijovic, being a housekeeper is better than living in fear and the constant sound of air raid sirens.
“I thought I would miss Ukraine and homesick, but that didn’t happen,” Chudijovic said. “It’s quiet here and I feel like a human being.”
Gec reported from Belgrade, Serbia. Associated Press writers Renata Brito in Barcelona, Spain; Vanessa Gera in Warsaw, Poland; Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin; Jamie Keaton in Geneva; Lorne Cook in Brussels and Barry Hatton in Lisbon, Portugal contributed.
Follow AP’s coverage of the Russian-Ukrainian war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine