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10.04.2008

Experts estimate that 4 and a half million Ukrainians are working abroad

   

The figure of 4 and a half million Ukrainian labour migrants was given on Wednesday by the coordinator of a study into Ukrainian labour migration in the destination countries, Ihor Markov at a press conference.

There are, for example, over 2 million Ukrainians in Russia (against an official figure of 169 thousand); 500 thousand in Italy (against 195 thousand, 412); Poland – over 450 thousand (20 thousand); Spain – 250 thousand (52 thousand 760); Portugal – 75 thousand (44 thousand 600); the Czech Republic – 150 thousand (51 thousand); Greece – 75 thousand (20 thousand); the Netherlands – 40 thousand; the United Kingdom – around 70 thousand and in the USA – around 500 thousand.

Mr Markov said that movement could be observed of migrants from certain regions or countries to others where in general the conditions and pay were better, for example, from the Czech Republic or Portugal to Spain.

While a partial return to Ukraine could be observed, especially from Greece and Portugal, the trend of migration from Ukraine to the EU and Russia continues.

While traditionally Ukrainian labour migrants have been employed in private homes as servants, looking after the elderly or children, construction and the service industry, other types of employment are increasing.

Mr Markov pointed out that there had been a sharp increase over recent times in the number of people receiving legal status to live and work in the specific country.  Of all the countries studied, aside from Poland and Russia where illegal migrants dominate, the figure is around 30-35%.

At the same time there is a rising trend towards illegal entry of EU countries, as well as of illegal employment of Ukrainians having legal status in one country but moving to another where they work illegally.

At present, Mr Markov noted, we see a “secondary migration” where migrants come to either relatives or friends. They are also taking out mortgages on flats in Italy, Greece, Spain or Portugal.

While overall he believes that one can speak of Ukrainians improving their material well-being, and becoming accustomed to a developed infrastructure and respect for human rights,  there remain a lot of people who due to their illegal position end up in slave labour conditions, especially in Southern Italy and Russia.

While around 80% of those surveyed said that they intended to return to Ukraine, approximately the same percentage could not say when they would do so.

Mr Markov said that one could only speak confidently of returning migrants in the case of the older generation (people around 60). The number of younger migrants, on the other hand, who intend to remain abroad was on the increase.

“Our studies allow us to make a preliminary conclusion that we should not expect a mass return of migrants to Ukraine until a favourable investment climate is created in Ukraine which will provide the stimulus for a competitive economy and lead to the development of a qualitatively different employment market.”

It was necessary therefore, he said, to focus more on social assistance for labour migrants. Most importantly, Ukraine must come to an agreement with those countries where migrants are working on the latter’s legalization, on the use of international legal opportunities for defending migrants’ rights, regardless of their status, and improving their social conditions, for example, pensions in Ukraine and resolving the issue of legalizing driving licences.

According to the latest figures, Ukrainian labour migrants working in the EU last year sent 27 billion Euro back to Ukraine, this amounting to 8% of Ukraine’s GNP.

From a report at www.newsru.ua

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