Starting from Wednesday, Ukrainian war refugees are able to apply for a residence permit in a day that should make it easier to find a job quickly. Language requirements are worrying employers, while the Estonian Language Inspectorate promise to help job seekers.
Olga has higher education and worked as a pharmacist in Kharkiv before running from the war. She is prepared to do whatever work is needed in the town of Türi that took her in. She is extremely grateful for the hospitality Estonia has shown her, saying she did not know much about the country before arriving.
"I hope I will learn more about Estonia living here and can give something in return for your hospitality. I am prepared to work, learn the language and help you as you have helped me," Olga said.
Until now, employers were concerned over the foreign workers' average salary requirement that far exceeds many sectors' ordinary wage levels.
"A residence permit based on temporary protection gives people the right to work on the same grounds as Estonian permanent residents," said Katrin Liivamets, head of the services department of the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund.
Refugees will be able to secure a residence permit in expedited procedure that will allow them to register as unemployed and use the fund's resources to find a job.
"We will have examples from virtually all walks of life. From people who might lack professional skills to top specialists – speech therapists, teachers, designers," Anu Viltrop, head of support services with the Estonian Refugee Council, said.
Refugees looking for work are worried about the Estonian language requirement.
"For example, the question of how people with medical education could work in the Estonian healthcare sector – whether the Health Board can register them as medical workers and on what conditions. Also, whether it is possible to relax language proficiency requirements for teachers," Liivamets said.
The concern is shared by the service sector. Shops have already turned to the Language Inspectorate. Director General Ilmar Tomusk said that other employees will need to help those who cannot speak Estonian working on the shop floor.
"They could prepare professional vocabulary for them – courtesy and terminology needed in the company. A few dozen to a hundred words. And help them that way," Tomusk said.
He urged employers to find language training opportunities for those who want it and help them on the journey.
Because the inspectorate has to react to complaints, employers are urged to register their refugee workers. The agency will hold off issuing precepts for them. Refugees can also start working as teachers in Estonia.
"Employers will have to make sure teachers stay on top of tasks – filling in e-school and other forms, in which refugee workers will need to be assisted, while we will provide counseling," Tomusk said.
The Unemployment Insurance Fund has over one hundred wanted ads specifically for war refugees from banks, the IT sector, accommodation providers, caterers and schools. The fund has around 5,000 monthly wanted ads in a situation where labor shortage is double that.
Editor: Marcus Turovski