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Interview: Strategizing the repatriation of Ukrainian citizens after the invasion
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Interview: Strategizing the repatriation of Ukrainian citizens after the invasion

It is projected that the labor force will require an additional 4.5 million workers in the next ten years.

IOM’s Senior Programme Coordinator for Migration and Sustainable Development in Kyiv, Ukraine, Michael Newson, was interviewed by UN News regarding strategies for encouraging individuals to return to their home countries.

According to Michael Newson, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has noticed a rise in the number of Ukrainians returning to their home country, despite the ongoing war. Several surveys have shown that a significant portion of Ukrainians who fled, particularly those living in the European Union, plan to come back once the situation improves. However, it is also likely that many will choose to stay abroad for an extended period. Based on current data, it is anticipated that Ukraine will experience a higher rate of repatriation after the war compared to other post-conflict situations.

The return of Ukrainians residing abroad to their home country will be influenced by various factors, such as their living conditions in their current host countries and in Ukraine. The decision of how many individuals will return to Ukraine will also be influenced by the policies and initiatives implemented by the Ukrainian government and the international community to encourage repatriation.

Reconstruction efforts are already underway in Ukraine, including schools.

UNICEF in Ukraine

Efforts to rebuild are currently in progress in Ukraine, including the reconstruction of schools.

What factors are necessary to motivate individuals to go back to their homes?

Michael Newson: Security is a crucial factor. Without a sense of safety, any incentive programs will not have a significant impact on people’s decision to return home. People desire economic stability and assurance that they can support themselves and their families when they go back. Therefore, it is essential to have basic healthcare and education services available.

Creating initiatives to connect individuals living abroad with employment opportunities in Ukraine before they return can greatly motivate them to return to their home country. We often discuss offering financial incentives as a solution for the expenses and challenges of returning and resettling. Ultimately, these incentive packages must minimize the perceived risks associated with returning, including safety concerns, economic uncertainties, and the possibility of being unable to return to their country of asylum if they change their mind.

UN News: How will IOM support the Ministry of Economy in the process of reintegrating Ukrainians and ensuring a smooth transition back into the labour market?

Michael Newson: Currently, we are discussing these specific types of conversations with colleagues from the Ministry of Economy and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Agriculture is one of the most important industries in Ukraine.

© UNOCHA/Matteo Minasi

Farming is a crucial sector in Ukraine’s economy.

It is crucial that our programs are based on solid evidence. Our goal is to create programs that address the concerns of Ukrainians living abroad who are contemplating returning, as well as the challenges faced by those who have already returned in terms of reintegrating into the workforce.

“We can gain knowledge from past situations after war. We must acknowledge that, similar to someone contemplating a significant change, having employment and the ability to support oneself is only one aspect to consider when moving.”

Creating programs for individuals considering returning that aid in the search for housing, enrolling their children in school, securing employment, and connecting with healthcare resources for ongoing health concerns will not only motivate a return but also guarantee a seamless transition.

Our goal is to prevent offering rewards for returning and reintegrating that give returnees an advantage over those who stayed in the country, as this may cause social conflicts.

What will be the impact on the job market if there is a lack of Ukrainian workers returning home after the war?

Reworded: Michael Newson believes that due to the current demographics in Ukraine and the recent invasion, simply relying on returning Ukrainians will not be enough to fulfill the country’s labor market demands for reconstruction and economic recovery.

According to the Ministry of Economy, an extra 4.5 million employees may be required in the upcoming decade to fulfill labor market demands and achieve economic goals.

One approach to tackling this issue is through the utilization of incoming labor migration.

Ukraine is one of many countries in the region which is not traditionally seen as countries of immigration but need to start to reconsider policies and look at bringing in foreign workers to meet growing labour market gaps both at higher and lower skill levels.

Many Ukrainians who were forced to live in basements during the early stages of the invasion fled the country.

© Alina Beskrovna

Numerous citizens of Ukraine, who were compelled to reside in underground shelters at the beginning of the attack, departed from their homeland.

In addition to these main focuses, we should also consider investing in equipment and technology, and re-evaluating our management and operational systems to improve efficiency.

How difficult do you anticipate the post-conflict period to be as Ukraine adapts to peacetime?

Michael Newson said that Ukraine had significant challenges before the invasion, but now the war has made things even worse in areas such as demographics, social services, and economic development.

But I am filled with hope and reassurance by the readiness of the Ukrainian Government to recognize and confront these difficulties directly. The Government and citizens of Ukraine have shown remarkable strength and flexibility in the last year and a half.

There is no reason to believe that they would not be able to adjust, with the help of the global community, in order to promote the rebuilding and economic revitalization of the country once peace is achieved.