No warm homecoming awaited


The economic crisis is forcing Ukrainians to return home. Ukrainians, in the first instance, those working in construction, are already coming back from Russia. However Lyubov Maximovych, Head of the West Ukrainian “Women’s Prospects” Centre, thinks that those in Western Europe are not hurrying to return, and will probably look for less well-paid work than return when it’s not clear what they’ll find, especially with unemployment steadily rising.

According to a study by the State Committee of Statistics and the Ukrainian Centre for Social Reform, over the last three and a half years almost 1.5 million Ukrainians have travelled abroad in search of work at least once. Nearly half (48.4%) worked in Russia, and almost the same number in European Union countries, mainly Italy (13,4%), the Czech Republic (12,8%), Poland  (7,4%), Spain (3,9%) and Portugal (3%). People were prompted by instability in the country, corruption in all branches of power and the lack of possibility for development and self-fulfilment.

At present almost all the Ukrainians who have returned were working in the construction industry in Russia. According to one of them, Serhiy, it’s already impossible to get a ticket on the train to Ukraine, all the places have been sold a month in advance. Having returned, the construction workers could simply fill the ranks of the unemployed.

Lyubov Maximovych, however, says that those who have returned are already looking for jobs. “Last week I met some people I know who were working in Moscow on construction sites. They’re looking for any work connected with construction, and are ready to do flat repairs. They don’t demand Lviv prices, but the average ones for the district, consciously undercharging. If Lviv doesn’t lose Euro-2012, they won’t be without work since they’re good specialists in their field. It’s worse for those Ukrainians working in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions who could end up unemployed.”

According to the Director of the “Social Indicators” Centre, Ella Libanova, people working in Western Europe are unlikely to return. Even if the wages have fallen, they’re still higher than in Ukraine.

Those returning after having seen real earnings can face disillusionment and have difficulty reconciling themselves with poorer conditions at home. Some will try to register in employment centres and others will go out and try to find work. And those who aren’t lucky will, Lyubov Maximovych believes, try to drown their sorrows in alcohol. She believes that it will be hardest for those returning not to big cities, but to villages due to the critical shortage of jobs. Unemployment will lead to crisis situations in the family, and abuse of alcohol. “I haven’t heard yet of men drinking through the money they earned through their hard work abroad.” She stresses the need to show understanding to relatives who have returned, help them to re-adapt and cope until they find a job.

She suggests that the difficult situation could be alleviated by reducing the taxes on running small and medium-size business. They would then create new jobs. Otherwise Ukraine will be flooded by a wave of unemployment.

According to the study “Ukraine’s external labour migration”, it is not only the crisis which is forcing workers back. Other reasons given were a worsening in their health or that of members of their family, getting close to retirement age, feeling that they had done their duty as far as providing for their families’ wellbeing.

Very slightly abridged from an article by Zoryana Franko at:

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