The practical, financial and emotional difficulties of being a refugee are unfathomable. But for the millions of people who have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded, one obstacle may be somewhat easier to tackle in the coming months: Making a living.
Businesses and organizations from all over are creating free online jobs boards, and other hiring and training resources, to connect displaced Ukrainians seeking work with employers looking to hire them.
And for the first time, European Union states have all agreed to offer temporary protection status to Ukrainian refugees, which means they can live, study and work in those countries without the red tape and long processing times refugees normally face.
Relative to other refugee crises, this kind of rapid jobs support is unprecedented, said Stefan Lehmeier, the Europe Programs Deputy Regional Director for the International Rescue Committee. “[Ukrainian refugees] don’t have to jump through as many hoops.”
An outpouring of support
Something else working in Ukrainians’ favor if they stay and work in the EU – especially in Slavic-language countries – is that they are likely to have an easier time adapting to the culture and the language than refugees from elsewhere.
“[Ukrainians have] been part of the East European workforce for a long time. They’re a very attractive and skilled workforce,” said Jonas Prising, CEO of international staffing firm Manpower, which is creating country-specific, Ukrainian-language jobs sites.
It also doesn’t hurt that employers have been struggling to find workers in a tight labor market.
Manpower has found that employers are more willing to hire people who may not have all the requisite skills for a job but who can be trained. That particularly applies to Ukrainian women, who, along with children, make up the vast majority of the Ukrainians who have fled. “Their flexibility in accepting unskilled or not a perfectly skilled worker is much greater with respect to women Ukrainian refugees,” Prising said.
Many refugees aren’t necessarily looking for permanent positions yet, because there is still hope that the war in Ukraine will not be long, Prising said. Should that not be the case, “We’ll be an active part of the solution as they resettle.”
Manpower and two other international staffing firms, Randstad and Adecco, are among nearly 50 employers that signed the Tent Partnership for Refugees pledge to provide both short-term and long-term support for displaced Ukrainians.
Adecco also has set up a free jobs portal in Ukrainian and English for refugees and employers to use. Within just days of launching it, there have been 1,000 applicants and 500 employers that have signed on, said Jerick Develle, Adecco’s senior vice president in charge of crisis response.
Those employers run the gamut from large multinationals to a small independently run restaurant in France, Develle said. And the types of jobs on offer include those in administration, hospitality and healthcare – with particular requests for nurses, but there is a question of whether Ukrainian nursing licenses will be recognized in various countries.
Randstad has been providing direct financial support, mental health care and employment opportunities to the fleeing families of its 3,000 Ukrainian employees already in Poland, a company spokesperson said in an email. And, she noted, “we have pledged to directly support an additional 1,500 people seeking refuge in Poland by helping them to find employment opportunities as well as offer material support, covering the costs of accommodation, childcare and upskilling as needed.”
More broadly, Randstad recently launched a Ukrainian edition of its jobs portal, with links to its country-specific jobs sites written in Ukrainian for refugees who have landed in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Portugal and Spain.
A job site dedicated to helping Ukrainians
Those seeking tech jobs, marketing and other remote-friendly work may find opportunities on RemoteUkraine.org, a free jobs platform created by Iman Fadaei, founder of job matching software provider TalentPools, and Igor Omelchenko, the company’s chief technology officer.
The site launched in late February and has since been used by 1,265 employers across 67 countries and by 1,573 displaced Ukrainians, Fadaei said. And he is inviting anyone to post open roles from any location, at no cost.
“Let us repost your job on our platform to reach our community and [interested candidates] will apply from your platform,” Fadaei said.
Omelchenko, who is living in Ukraine and can’t leave the country in case he gets called up to fight, has been working on the site largely from his bathtub, where he, along with his wife and cat, take refuge when the air raid sirens go off. Those sirens occur four or five times a day, he said, and each lasts anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours.
When asked how refugees are hearing about RemoteUkraine.org, he said it is primarily through their personal networks and on social media like Facebook.
Easier, but not necessarily easy to work
Despite the outpouring of support, it still may not be easy for many Ukrainian refugees to start working even if they do find a job that is a good fit for them, Lehmeier said.
For starters, so many of the refugees are women with children whose husbands or partners have stayed behind in Ukraine. So they can’t work until they have childcare in place – and that’s not just babysitting or daycare, but schools and developmental learning centers so their children can be educated, he noted.
Second, even though all 27 EU states approved offering temporary protective status to Ukrainian refugees, each state is creating its own administrative processes and there is confusion over how each of those will work. Those processes will not only give refugees the right to work, but also provide access to social safety net subsidies to live and schools for their kids.
“Neither Ukrainians nor local authorities know [yet] what this means practically,” Lehmeier said.