Ukrainians are less likely to find work in Germany than in other EU countries

Christian Cichy, MDR Business Editor

As of October 7, 2023, 1:00 AM

The integration of Ukrainian war refugees into the German labor market is slow compared to other European countries. This is the conclusion of an ongoing analysis by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. Just 18 percent of people in Germany have a job, compared to two-thirds or more in countries like Poland, the Czech Republic and Denmark. In addition to bureaucracy, the reasons are perverse incentives.

Work participation among refugees stagnates in Germany

In Germany, it says, “work participation of war refugees is stagnating, while in other countries it is increasing month by month”. A study by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation “With Open Arms – Cooperative Reception of War Refugees from Ukraine in Europe. An Alternative to the Asylum Regime?”. Since October 2022, despite refugees’ above-average education and high demand for workers, the employment rate has increased by just one percentage point. In Denmark, however, 74 percent of Ukrainian war refugees have found paid work. In Poland and the Czech Republic – the two most important recipient countries in Europe, along with Germany – the proportion is two-thirds. More than half work in the Netherlands, Great Britain and Ireland. In Switzerland, as in Germany, it is 18 percent, while in Austria it is just 14 percent.

Work is key to integration

Dietrich Thrunhardt, author of the analysis, says the low work participation is worrying, not because of wasted labor. “Work is a key to integration. If you earn your own money, you will gain self-confidence and respect, you will have the same level of communication, and therefore you will learn the language faster,” believes the professor of political science.

In addition, permanent employment can be a decisive advantage if Ukrainians want to stay in Germany for a long time and want to switch to another legal status after the temporary protection expires. In the German debate, the idea that refugees will always be a burden often arises. On the other hand, the state-run Polish Economic Institute, Thrunhardt expects that by 2023 refugees from Ukraine will generate more tax revenue than spending.

When you earn your own money, you gain self-confidence and respect and have the same level of contacts, so learn the language quickly.

Dietrich Thränhardt, author of the study “With open arms – the cooperative reception of war refugees from Ukraine in Europe. An alternative to the asylum regime?”

Less financial support in Poland and the Czech Republic

Thränhardt’s analysis also deals with the reasons for different labor force participation levels within the EU. Basically, the legal requirements are initially the same: Ukrainian refugees receive temporary protection status in all EU countries. This means they can live in the host country without the complicated asylum process, integrate into health and social systems and are allowed to work immediately. Poland and the Czech Republic have such a large lead compared to Germany because financial support in Poland and the Czech Republic is significantly lower than in Germany and less over time.

This is how Ukrainian refugees enter Republic of Che Monthly emergency assistance initially equal to 200 euros. After five months, the amount drops to 130 euros. Health insurance and co-housing expenses are now only for a limited period.

In Poland On request, a one-time payment equal to 66 euros and child benefits of 110 euros per month may be granted; Additionally, there is no longer any social assistance. Anyone staying in shared accommodation for more than four months must cover half of the cost themselves. This means: Many refugees are forced to work in a generally low-wage sector.

In Deutschland These financial incentives are significantly less. From June 2022, Ukrainians receive the regular citizen’s benefit rate for an unlimited period, which is currently 502 euros for single adults. There is an additional 420 euros per child. Housing and additional expenses will also be covered if required.

Germany relies on language and integration courses

But there will be another strategy: Germany relies on language and assimilation courses instead of quickly bringing refugees to work for wages and livelihoods, as Poland and the Czech Republic are following. The background is that Ukrainians should not be forced to take unskilled jobs, but, if possible, work at their qualifications. According to the Institute for Labor Market and Occupational Research (IAB), about 60 percent of unemployed Ukrainians are currently taking such courses. They usually last six months or more.

Vika Solotarevska, who came to Germany from Ukraine 22 years ago, suspects that some people are used to it. He works as a tax clerk and volunteers as a coordination consultant in Dessau-Roßlau. Because of his professional work, he knows many small and medium-sized companies that are currently looking for employees – but have no job openings. Zolotarevska criticizes many integration programs as being more about taking on a job and more about leisure activities. In addition, his Ukrainian classmates often kept to themselves during language courses and continued to communicate in their native language during breaks. From her own experience, Vika Zolotarevska firmly believes that the best way to learn the language is to be in constant contact with German work colleagues while working, rather than spending months or years at school.

The Netherlands and Denmark have the highest employment rates

However, relatively generous social assistance could be a reason for some Ukrainians to work here: in the Netherlands and Denmark, for example, where funding is similar to that of Germany, a large proportion of refugees now work, they say in the analysis. Through the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation. This is where the complex German bureaucracy comes into play, which is slower than in other EU countries.

Bureaucratic procedures delay the start of work

In Austria and Switzerland, a permit is still required to carry out the work. In Austria, refugees lose health insurance if they earn more than 110 euros. This puts them in a “passivity trap,” Thrunhart says. In Germany, the permit requirement was lifted on June 1, 2022, but it’s still complicated. Unlike all other EU countries, a time-consuming security check is also required.

Poland, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the Netherlands and Ireland, on the other hand, created simple digital one-stop procedures. This means that the entire admission process – from legal status to work permit – is completed in one step. A month after the Russian invasion, 200,000 Ukrainian refugees have already received work permits in the Czech Republic. In the Netherlands, it was initially sufficient to register with the relevant municipality; Poland created a special registration type for Ukrainian refugees.

More obstacles on the road to freedom

According to the analysis, Ukrainian women who want to work independently complain about long and complicated procedures with many companies. Poland, on the other hand, has a large number of startups. Ukrainian women start businesses mainly in the hairdressing industry and men in trade, construction and warehouse management, both in the information technology sector.

Most active refugees do not go to Germany

Ukrainian war refugees are free to choose their host country. Every month, Eurostat calculates how many Ukrainian refugees each country has taken in among its native population. The Czech Republic leads with 3.2 percent of the population; Every 30th resident of the country comes from Ukraine. In Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Bulgaria, Ukrainian refugees make up more than two percent of the population, 1.9 percent in Slovakia, 1.7 percent in Ireland, and 1.3 percent in Germany. The EU average is 0.9 percent, with France bringing up the rear with 0.1 percent.

What’s exciting, according to Thränhardt, is that compared to Germany, the top countries all offer fewer social benefits and lower wages. For the political scientist, this development speaks against the thesis that social welfare is the main attraction, and instead speaks in favor of refugee action. If the differences described are confirmed, one must assume that highly active individuals are unlikely to orient themselves towards Germany.

No jobs in eligible occupations

Thränhardt concludes, however, that no European country has yet succeeded in promoting the good education of Ukrainian women. They often work for low wages. Although there is a shortage of doctors and nurses, these professional skills remain largely untapped. It covers at least seven percent of refugees, meaning around 50,000 trained healthcare professionals across Europe. The same is true for the education sector, from which 13 percent comes.

More so in the case of skilled workers from abroad

This topic in the project:MDR THÜRINGEN – Radio | News | July 27, 2023 | 9.00 am

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