Good employment rates for Ukrainian refugees in Estonia

Tallink's passenger ferry M/S Isabelle will act as temporary accommodation for refugees fleeing war in Ukraine.
Tallink's passenger ferry M/S Isabelle will act as temporary accommodation for refugees fleeing war in Ukraine. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

44 percent of Ukrainian war refugees granted temporary protection in Estonia between the ages of 20 and 64 are employed, which is significantly higher than the EU average. However, due to the lack of language skills, a higher level of education does not guarantee them a position corresponding to their qualifications.

According to the report "A Year of War Refugees in Estonia" produced by the Ministry of Social Affairs, the proportion of working war refugees is increasing and their employment is stable, indicating that they are thriving on the Estonian labor market.

"The high employment rate of Ukrainian refugees also demonstrates that people have the desire and will to become self-sufficient and begin rebuilding their lives. The most important thing is for them to find work that will allow them to support their families and rent a place to live," Ulla Saar, deputy secretary-general for labor at the Ministry of Social Affairs, said.

The profile of Ukrainian war refugees arriving in Estonia from 2022 onwards differs from that of 2014: whereas between 2014 and 2017, the refugees were predominantly younger men with a lower level of education, the current Ukrainian war refugees include mostly women with a higher level of education.

"The only cause for concern is the trend uncovered by a labor market survey, which indicates that the higher education level of war refugees does not guarantee them a job corresponding with their qualifications; the issue is a lack of language skills and a shortage of childcare facilities. Due to a lack of proficiency in the local language, it is difficult for Ukrainian refugees to find work that matches their previous position in Ukraine or their qualifications. A large proportion of Ukrainian refugees are employed in lower-level positions. In Ukraine, most of them were working in education, commerce or healthcare, whereas in the new countries of residence, housekeeping and working in the manufacturing industry are the most common occupations," Saar said.

Among war refugees receiving temporary protection, the age group between 35 and 39 had the highest employment rate.

The number of registered unemployed Ukrainian refugees aged 20-64 who have received temporary protection has dropped to one-third and a declining trend continues.

A significant number of unemployed Ukrainian war refugees are supported by the Estonian Unemployment Fund (Töötukassa). In addition, they utilized their own networks to find employment in Estonia.

The Unemployment Insurance Fund provides them with services and assistance to find employment, such as training on the labor market for job seekers, mentoring fees for employers, career counseling and job search assistance. Mediated through the unemployment fund, Estonian language instruction has become popular as well.

Between February 2022 and the end of March 2023, over 127,000 Ukrainian refugees crossed the Estonian border, with 58,000 of them being in transit to a different destination. There are currently more than 40,00 people in Estonia receiving temporary protection and 58 percent of them are of working age.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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