Employment Among Ukrainian Refugees

Mar 22, 2023

The ability to take pride in your own work is one of the hallmarks of sanity. Take away the ability to both work and be proud of it and you can drive anyone insane.

Nikki Giovanni, Gloria Wade-Gayles, ed., My Soul Is a Witness (1995)

Ukrainian refugees

More than 8 million Ukrainian refugees were registered in Europe as of February, 2023. Women and children make up more than two-thirds of that total. Most plan to return to Ukraine, but the difficulties posed by winter, lack of power and/or high energy prices, and the devastation caused by the war make that unlikely to happen in the next three months.

According to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), more than 815,000 have received food and non-food items, plus winter clothing, and more than 31,000 have received emergency shelter materials.

In the meantime, though they are grateful to their host countries for assistance with food, shelter, and winter clothing, these people want to work and have the dignity of supporting themselves and their families. Even with help from the government of whatever country they are living in, many are struggling to keep their heads above water. Forty-one percent are staying with host families and twenty percent are living in hotels. Only a quarter are able to rent.

Ukrainian refugees are, for the most part, highly educated and had jobs in Ukraine prior to the war. Almost three-quarters of them have advanced degrees. They want to work, partly because they want the stability that a good job brings, and because they wish to give back to the country that has been helpful to them in their time of need.
Some of the stumbling blocks to their going back to work are a lack of language skills and often their credentials are not formally recognized in their host countries. A glaring problem is that they need help with childcare. In some cases, they need psychological support, help with children who have disabilities, and specialized care for their elders.

Upskilling courses for Ukrainians

Language classes, upskilling, and childcare would allow these people to enter the workforce and take responsibility for their lives, something they deeply want to do.
The Educational Equality Institute provides courses in at least ten languages to Ukrainians and other refugees who wish to learn or improve the language of their host country. These courses are taught by professional teachers and translators, most of whom are fluent in Ukrainian, Russian, or both.

Many refugees experience a feeling of dislocation and loneliness, or at the very least, some confusion about the way their host country does things. Why do they do things that way? How can I fit in? Having a friend is never a bad thing, but it’s hard to make friends in a new land. TEEI has created a mentorship program for Ukrainians who need support, someone to talk to–maybe to practice newly acquired language skills on—and a new friend.

Through Language Connect for Ukraine, Ukrainians can find a tutor who speaks the language they wish to learn and book a 1-1 video session for instruction. This program is offered in partnership with Kintell.

Because many Ukrainians plan to return to their country after the war, they may wish to have their children continue to be educated in the Ukrainian system. TEEI is building an online school for these kids. Children around the world can study online, following a Ukrainian curriculum.

Empty classroom

This model is also available to university students. Through TEEI, students can start or continue their studies online, for free, with exams at partnering universities that allow for full accreditation.

War disrupts lives brutally. People who are forced from their homes to seek safety can at least begin to mend the rift in their children’s education and learn the skills they need to orient themselves productively in their host country, with the help of TEEI.

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