“Learn basic German and come back”: new barrier for Ukrainian job seekers
“I don’t speak German,” said Ganna Nikolska in halting English, as she returned discouraged from the stand of an insurer ready to hire Ukrainian refugees in Berlin.
The 42-year-old doctor by training fled Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine in March “with her backpack and her daughter”, her sister Olena Nikitoshkina, 36, told Agence France-Presse (AFP). , who is fluent in German.
Nikolska would like to stay in Germany, but struggles to find work in her field “because her degree should be recognized and she should speak German, but it takes a long time,” Nikitoshkina said.
About 1,000 Ukrainian newcomers showed up at the stands of companies gathered at the Berlin Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IHK) this week for a job fair.
Three months after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which caused a mass exodus of more than 6 million people, Germany took in more Ukrainians than any other nation except neighboring countries, according to the United Nations.
German authorities estimate that more than 700,000 people have arrived from Ukraine since February 24, without knowing how many have continued on to third countries.
In Berlin, some 44,000 Ukrainians have applied for permanent residence permits.
After the first turbulent weeks of their settlement, the refugees – the vast majority of whom are women – are now seeking to integrate and earn a living.
A wide range of about 60 employers, including hotels, private clinics and construction companies, participated in the job fair, said IHK’s Yvonne Meyer.
As Europe’s largest economy, with its aging population and low unemployment, faces labor shortages in many sectors, Ukrainian newcomers are seen as an attractive option in the industry, retail and healthcare.
The Institute for Employment Research of the German Federal Employment Agency reports that there are currently 1.69 million unfilled jobs in the country – a new record.
“We are always looking for staff, so this is a very good opportunity for us,” said a recruiter from the Berlin Street Cleaning Service (BSR) at the fair.
Some companies, including the upmarket Grill Royal restaurant group and Policum health clinics, have started offering German lessons to new staff.
But none of the jobs Yuliia Bokk is interested in offer this possibility.
“It’s not enough that I speak English. I ask everyone and they all tell me ‘learn basic German and come back,'” said the 24-year-old, who had a good job in the retail business in Kyiv.
The Syrian precedent
Bokk nevertheless considers herself lucky to be in Germany.
Since June 1, Ukrainian refugees have been eligible for state assistance of up to 449 euros ($481) per month and are registered with the social security service.
She also started a free “integration course” offering a six-month introduction to German language and culture. Around 80,000 Ukrainians are already registered, according to the Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF).
“The courses are in high demand and since many refugees arrived in Germany in 2015 from Syria or Afghanistan, the structures were already in place”, explains Martin Eckermann, consultant at BAMF.
In 2015, Germany left its borders open to over a million people fleeing war and hardship, so the number of asylum seekers working in Germany has increased more than sixfold since then.
Daria Tatarenko, 23, a graduate in management and economics of the energy sector, applied for a job in a bakery “because you don’t need to speak German”.
It is a temporary solution for the young woman who fled Kyiv in March.
“I feel gratitude for the German people because they helped us a lot, but I want to go home when the war is over. Because this is my home, this is my country,” he said. she declared.