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In Poland, Ukrainian refugees boost the labor market

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Natalia, 30, lived in Konotop, in northern Ukraine. When her town came under Russian fire last March, she drove away with her 7-year-old granddaughter. She joined Wroclaw, in Poland, where a Ukrainian friend could lodge her.

Six months later, Natalia is working in a shopping center in this large city near Germany, one of the most dynamic in the country. She is a manicurist in a beauty salon. She rents an apartment. “In Konotop, I had my own little salon. Here, I am employed but I immediately found something, she says. And if that’s not right, we can change easily. »

Like her, a large number of Ukrainian refugees have easily found employment. Poland has seen the arrival of nearly 6 million refugees since the start of the war. Many have joined other countries or have already returned to Ukraine, while 1.3 million have been registered with Polish social services and 420,000 of them are working.

An unemployment rate of 3%

“A grown-up person has no real choiceexplains Artur Oskwarek, coordinator of the still open reception point at Wroclaw Central Station. Refugees receive 300 zlotys (€64) upon arrival, then nothing. We find accommodation solutions for them and the State gives 500 zlotys (106 €) per month and per child. But an adult person does not receive a monthly allowance. »

The labor market situation in Poland makes it easy for these refugees to find a job. With growth expected at 4.6% in 2022, the country is doing well. The unemployment rate is around 3%. And in Wroclaw it is only 1.5%.

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Refugees are almost exclusively women, often with children. “Many come from eastern Ukraine, from the regions most affected by the war. They are engineers, accountants, or administrative employees., analyzes Oskar Eden, project manager at the Wroclaw employment office. They cannot find jobs at their level of qualification, because they do not speak Polish. But they are not afraid to take what is available: work as a saleswoman, factory worker or cleaning lady, for a minimum wage of 2,360 zlotys net (€502).

Make a CV in Polish

To place the Ukrainians, the employment office in Wroclaw hired three people, themselves refugees. Maria Pavlova, 25, came alone from Kremenchuk in central Ukraine. She was working in a language school and had studied Polish when her country fell into war and the school closed.

Today, in Wroclaw, she receives Ukrainian women looking for work: “Some people are traumatized and in a state of confusion, unable to project themselves. I ask them what their qualifications are, I help them to make a CV in Polish, she says. We have also set up discussion groups where we discuss the different possibilities for finding work. They are shown that it is normal to have difficulties, because no one was prepared to emigrate…”

For these women, the main difficulties consist in finding more durable housing – because the price of rents has risen – and, if necessary, finding childcare. For the rest, the refugees are well received. In the windows, in Wroclaw, posters in Ukrainian welcome. “I have a lot of calls from employers who want to hire Ukrainians”confirms Oskar Eden.

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The country needs labor

There is a surge of sympathy for a neighboring people, all the more spontaneous since the Poles are convinced that they are facing the same danger of a Russian invasion. But the arrival of Ukrainian labor is also an opportunity for the country. “Poland is experiencing a decline in its working population, as the baby boom generation reaches retirement age”, explains Agnieska Chlon-Dominczak, from the Warsaw School of Economics. In addition, the generous family policy of the ruling conservative coalition has taken many women out of the labor market.

The country therefore needs a supply of labour. Whether these refugees will stay remains to be seen. According to a survey carried out on behalf of the national bank last May, only 20% of them plan to settle in Poland.

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Poland, third lowest unemployment rate in Europe

Poland has 38 million inhabitants, of which 18 million are part of the working population. Since 2012, the unemployment rate in Poland has been below the EU average. It is currently 3%, the third lowest in the European Union, behind the Czech Republic and Germany.

Poland is expected to grow by 4.6% this year and 1.7% in 2023. It risks suffering from the fall in activity in Germany, which represents 30% of its exports.

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