Unemployment among Ukrainian refugees in Estonia on the rise

The Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund (Töötukassa) office on Tartu's Vaksali Street,
The Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund (Töötukassa) office on Tartu's Vaksali Street, Source: Aili Vahtla/ERR

Unemployment among Ukrainian refugees in Estonia is on the rise. Most Ukrainian refugees employed in Estonia are in unskilled roles in sectors where the economic situation is not in great shape.

In her home city of Kharkiv, Ukraine, Miroslava Kononenko worked as an editor for a local newspaper. After arriving in Estonia, she also tried to find a job as a journalist. However, after multiple rejections, she eventually accepted a job as a Russian-language communications specialist at the Labor Inspectorate. Every day, Miroslava works with lawyers to help people who are involved in labor disputes.

"In my work, I have seen a lot of situations when talking to people, where it turns out that those who don't speak Estonian can't get a job anywhere other than as a cleaner or in construction or something like that. And Estonian is very difficult," said Kononenko.

She said she is aware of some people who have been looking for a job for more than a year due to the language barrier.

According to the think tank the Foresight Center, 27,000 Ukrainians have now entered the Estonian labor market. Two-thirds are unemployed and this number is set to rise in the near future. The majority of Ukrainian refugees employed in Estonia are in unskilled or manual jobs.

"Most Ukrainians are employed in manufacturing, followed by administrative support activities. There are also many working in accommodation, catering, as well as sales and wholesale trade," said Annika Sepp, employment adviser at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications.

More than 500 Ukrainian refugees are currently employed in the health and social care sector, with almost 400 Ukrainians working in educational institutions.

Although unemployment is forecast to rise, according to Triinu Tapver, an economist at Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), the increase is still expected to be small.

"There will be a so-called soft landing, but that does not mean that this soft landing will happen across all sectors. We are already seeing it in the construction sector, for example. Apartments are not being bought, construction is at a standstill and workers are unemployed. So, perhaps different sectors are affected differently," Tapver said.

The state is monitoring the levels of unemployed Ukrainians but does not yet see it as a problem.

"Changes are still happening in the labor market and, of course, we are trying to respond to them by providing labor market services as well as helping people as much as possible with different services, counseling and opportunities," said Sepp.

Refugees, who are registered as unemployed, will receive €327 per month in support for up to nine months. At the end of this period, they are able to apply for a subsistence allowance.

According to Tapver, it is difficult for refugees, who have lost their jobs, to find new employment.

"Those Ukrainians who work in simple and unskilled roles and do not speak Estonian will certainly find it a little more difficult to find a job than, for example, an Estonian who has been laid off from the same job. Precisely because of the language barrier," Tapver said.


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Editor: Michael Cole

Source: Aktuaalne kaamera

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