Professor: No doubt Ukrainian refugees are benefitting Estonian economy

Ukrainian war refugees arriving in at the refugee reception center in Tallinn in March 2022.
Ukrainian war refugees arriving in at the refugee reception center in Tallinn in March 2022. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Ukrainian war refugees, who have arrived in Estonia due to Russia's full-scale military invasion are not a burden on the Estonian economy, but are instead contributing to its development, said University of Tartu Professor Raul Eamets. Eamets is heading a working group, which has been studying the arrival of Ukrainian refugees in Estonia.

"If 55 percent of the Ukrainians who have arrived are in the labor market, there is no doubt that [they are] a benefit to the economy. After all, they are paying taxes and have not come here just to live on benefits," Eamets, dean of the University of Tartu's Faculty of Social Sciences said, at a briefing on Friday.

Eamets, who heads a research group at the University of Tartu's Center for Applied Social Sciences (CASS), presented an overview of the profile of Ukrainian war refugees who have been granted temporary protection by Estonia and how they are coping in the country so far. The data collected by the group showed, that 74 percent of the Ukrainian refugees, who have arrived in Estonia are women, more than half of whom have completed some form of higher education.

According to Eamets, the results of the survey show, that 55 percent of adult refugees from Ukraine have been able to find jobs since arriving in Estonia.

Estonia ranks second in the European Union, after the Netherlands, in terms of the percentage of Ukrainian refugees who have already secured employment.

"Although many are not in professional roles, or positions that correspond to their high levels of education, most are happy with their jobs and are not looking for new ones," he said.

Eamets said, that many of the Ukrainians, who have arrived are teachers or medical professionals, but are prevented from working in such roles in Estonia due to the language requirements. This means, that they cannot be fully integrated into the Estonian labor market without some assistance.

Clearly, this situation cannot continue and the state has to do something to ensure people are able to work in roles, which correspond to the education they have, he said.

The survey also showed, that well over half of the Ukrainians, who have arrived in Estonia have already started to learn Estonian, or are planning to do so.

According to the survey, more than two-thirds (68 percent) of Ukrainian war refugees in Estonia are living in private apartments. While the state's help in finding accommodation was crucial for refugees upon their arrival in Estonia, once finding employment, almost all have been able to cover their own housing costs.

The findings are supported by data from the Estonian Social Insurance Board's migration service, which shows that between March 2022 and mid-February this year, the state paid out €3.04 billion in benefits, of which only 0.47 percent went to Ukrainians in the form of temporary protection money. In addition, just 1.73 percent of the total paid out in family benefits went to Ukrainians.

According to Veiko Kommusaar, undersecretary for internal security at the Estonian Ministry of the Interior Interior Ministry, the number of future arrivals from Ukraine depends on the course of the war. However, Kommusaar said, it was likely to remain at around a 100-200 a week over the next few months.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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