Ukraine Refugees Face Dwindling Job Opportunities in the UK

 Merely weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, the British government mobilized to offer asylum to people fleeing the conflict. Now refugees are struggling to find the high-quality jobs that their qualifications deserve.

As the Russo-Ukrainian war grinds into its third year, visas issued to first arrivals are approaching expiry just as the UK labor market cools and general interest in helping Ukrainians wanes. “Everything has changed. We’re not on the news anymore,” said Diana Kocheva, a refugee who helms a community of displaced Ukrainian tech workers based in London.

The Ukraine Family Scheme, which allowed Ukrainian nationals to join a family member in the UK for up to three years, closed to new applicants in February. An alternative program, titled the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme, is still running. But extensions last just 18 months and Ukrainians can only apply for a new visa three months prior to their initial visa’s expiration date, adding to the uncertainty for those seeking work.

The government didn’t anticipate the conflict to be so protracted, creating a “transitional period” where initial policies will expire while new ones are still being established, according to Alexander Clarkson, a lecturer in European and International Studies at King’s College London. During that time, blue-collar workers might see fewer protections against exploitative working conditions. “We’re going to hear a lot of nasty stories of that nature in the next couple of months and years,” Clarkson said.

A visa about to expire can also push an application to the bottom of the pile. “They are willing to find someone with a more stable visa or situation,” Kocheva said of prospective employers. “Even if they like them and they passed all the technical interviews.”

Skills Mismatch

Olena Sergieieva, a lawyer with over two decades of experience working in-house for several Kyiv-based companies, said that although her immigration status hasn’t hindered her from finding work, many fellow Ukrainians are anxious about this issue.

“Let’s say it this way: We have a lot of problems in finding a job,” she said. “This was one more problem.”

After relocating to the UK in June 2022, Sergieieva took a role as a legal assistant to support herself and her 12-year-old daughter while she studies for two exams that — if she passes — will allow her to practice law in the UK.

“It’s so hard for Ukrainian citizens to find work here because we are great professionals in our jurisdiction,” she said. “But here we have to start from the beginning.”

Often, that’s because refugees are screened out in the application phase, said Gideon Maltz, chief executive officer of the Tent Partnership for Refugees, as hiring managers don’t recognize their qualifications or the requirements are inflated past what’s required for the role.

Around 58% of displaced Ukrainians employed in the UK reported that they weren’t working in the sector they did back home, according to the latest survey by the Office for National Statistics.

“There’s a lot of misunderstanding and ignorance around Ukrainian refugees, around refugees writ large,” said Maltz. “Ukrainian refugees get jobs at a much lower rate and when they get jobs, it’s often at a skill level that is probably below what they’re capable of.”

Rocky Jobs Market

At the same time, official economic data show signs Britain’s jobs market is cooling. The latest figures put the unemployment rate at 4.3%, the highest since the summer last year, heightening competition for roles. The number of vacancies fell, too, dropping to under 900,000 for the first time in almost three years.

An Economist Impact group study showed, however, that hiring refugees can boost a brand’s reputation among consumers, of which the benefits, alongside others, can outweigh initial investments. Research by the Fiscal Policy Institute, in partnership with Tent, showed that refugee workers are associated with greater retention rates. Refugees had a turnover rate that was seven to 15 percentage points lower than the overall workforce.

“Refugee hiring is so important because it’s a more meaningful outcome for refugees, but it’s also scalable and sustainable,” Maltz said. “Whereas charity tends to be sort of one-off and short-lived.”

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post