A part of people fleeing the war in Ukraine have already found work in Estonia. While hundreds of wanted ads have been posted, employers want the chance to hire refugees on the same grounds as permanent residents. That said, refugees are expected to do different things than people who have come to work in Estonia from Ukraine before.
Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) data suggests over 5,000 Ukrainian war refugees who do not plan to move on have reached Estonia. Around a third of them are working-age, with many actively looking for work as soon as possible, said Anu Viltrop, head of the Estonian Refugee Council.
"Finding work seems to be the number one priority."
The Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund has created a website with wanted ads for Ukrainians. Over 700 companis have registered, while only around 25 percent have posted job offers, said Katrin Liivamets, head of the fund's job seekers and employers unit.
"Employers often tell us that while they don't really have vacancies, they stand ready to offer people coming from Ukraine work to help them out," she said.
One obstacle is that refugees can only be hired based on short-term employment regulation. The conditions are not a good fit for many companies as other than seasonal employees, almost every position has to pay at least the national average salary, Liivamets pointed out.
"The average salary requirement does not apply in agriculture, forestry, fishing, food and beverages production and catering, while the period of working is shorter in those sectors," she explained.
The European Union last week decided in principle to implement a temporary protection mechanism for refugees that would equate them to permanent residents in many areas. The Unemployment Insurance Fund hopes the first corresponding residence permits will be issued in the next week or two.
Wanted ad for Ukrainians are available in all kinds of fields, while there is currently no overview of how they match up with the professional profile of refugees, Anu Viltrop said.
"The people I talked to have a very diverse set of skills and know-how. And looking at wanted ads, also in our database, they range from seasonal work to top specialist postings, for example, in the field of IT," she said.
"There are a lot of tourism sector jobs, catering and accommodaton, but also manufacturing, while employers are also looking for teachers, psychologists etc.," Katrin Liivamets added.
War refugees will be doing different things
Liivamets also emphasized that Estonia will see a new kind of Ukrainian labor.
"If most short-term workers tend to be men working in manufacturing or construction, most people arriving today are women, and we need to keep in mind that the lion's share of them have young children and/or elderly with them. Managing day- and nursing care will be an impotant aspect of how successful they will be at finding work."
Many Ukrainians are looking for work independently. A beauty technician in Tallinn found work in a beauty salon just two days after arrival. Ukrainian women who used to work as nurses knocked on the door of a hospital in Ida-Viru County, and while they cannot work as full nurses because of languge requirements, they can help out where possible.
Liivamets added that many of the refugees do not plan to stay long.
"Several have said they would like to find temporary work, unskilled labor that does not have to match their professional profile. Many people believe and hope that they will be able to return in the coming weeks. They would not have come to Estonia if not for the war. Their focus is on finding a safe place for themselves and their family for as long as the war rages," Liivamets said.
She emphasized that employers must keep in mind that war refugees are in a crisis situation and it will take time for them to adjust to life in Estonia.
"They can also be a little inconstant. It might seem to them that they want to find their feet and get to work right away, taking an interest in the fund and employers, while we need to count on setbacks in terms of accommodation, adjusting, school and kindergarten places potentially changing that situation."
"It is also our impression that the people who have arrived so far seem to be somewhat better off than those yet to come. They are usually people with relatives, a network of contacts in Estonia, for example, family members of Ukrainians already working in Estonia. They often have a place to stay and a local acquaintance who knows how things work. People who come later, accidentally so to speak, will take longer to get settled."
Editor: Marcus Turovski