A New Survey Of Ukrainian Refugees: Here's What Will Bring Them Back Home
With the right support, Ukrainians are ready to return, even to new parts of the country where they've never lived.
After Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine began, millions of Ukrainians fled their homes and went abroad. Many remain outside Ukraine. The Center for Economic Strategy and the Info Sapiens research agency surveyed these Ukrainian war refugees to learn more about who they are and how they feel about going home.
According to the survey, half of Ukrainians who went abroad are children. Among adults, most (83%) are women, and most (42%) are aged 35-49.
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Most Ukrainian refugees have lost their income due to the war: 12% do not have enough money to buy food, and 28% have enough only for food.
The overwhelming majority of adult refugees (70%) have higher education. This figure is much higher than the share of people with higher education in Ukraine (29%) and the EU (33%).
The majority of Ukrainian refugees reside in Poland (38%), Germany (20%), the Czech Republic (12%), and Italy (6%). In these countries, they can obtain temporary protection, giving them the right to stay, work, and access healthcare and education systems.
However, each country independently decides what social benefits and privileges to provide to Ukrainians and how to adapt them to live in society.
The most generous social benefits are in Germany: Ukrainians can receive monthly unemployment benefits (about 400 euros), additional payments for children (285-376 euros per month, depending on the child's age), and rental subsidies.
The only type of regular assistance in Poland is child benefits (approximately 100 euros per month).
In the Czech Republic, Ukrainians can only receive a one-time allowance (about 200 euros). In Italy, the assistance is 300 euros per month and is paid for three months.
As a result, 56% of Ukrainians in Poland and 50% in Italy lack funds for basic needs. In Germany, 76% of Ukrainians have enough money to meet their basic needs.
Different country policies lead to varying adaptations of Ukrainians to the labor market. Only 15% of refugees are employed in Germany, and in Italy - 12%. In Poland, 41% of Ukrainians are employed, and in the Czech Republic - 47%.
In Germany, the low percentage of employed refugees is related to government policy: Ukrainians are encouraged to take language courses before looking for work. In Italy, this figure is related to high unemployment and the need to provide documents confirming language skills and qualifications.
May 2022, Kyiv, Ukraine: Cyclists ride past a residential building with a mural depicting ''Saint Javelin''.
Sergei Chuzavkov / SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire
Half of Ukrainians "definitely plan" to return home, while 24% would prefer to return. But the longer the war lasts, the more people will adapt to life abroad and not return to Ukraine.
The main incentives for returning are the war's end (51%) and the absence of fighting and air strikes in their home region (34%).
Economic factors are also important: the opportunity to find a high-paying job (28%) and a higher standard of living in Ukraine (20%).
At the same time, adult refugees may return to Ukraine, while their children of senior school age will remain abroad. Overall, 40% of refugees want their children to study overseas.
The demographic situation in Ukraine was difficult even before the war, with an aging population and not enough births to keep up with the country's mortality rate. The non-return of many refugees with higher education and their children significantly threatens the economy. According to the survey, the annual losses of the Ukrainian economy from the non-return of refugees will likely range from 2.6% to 7.7% of pre-war GDP.
The sooner the war is over, the more Ukrainians will return home, benefiting the Ukrainian and European economies.