INTERVIEW: Planning the post-invasion return of citizens to Ukraine

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IOM has observed an increase in Ukrainians returning home despite the ongoing conflict. Many surveys indicate that many Ukrainians, particularly those living in the European Union intend to return when conditions permit. Many will also remain abroad for a long time. Current data suggests that Ukraine can expect a larger share of its population abroad to return after the war than we have seen in other post-conflict settings.

When and whether Ukrainians abroad return to the country will depend on a number of factors, including their conditions in their countries of refuge and in Ukraine. The number of people who choose to return to Ukraine will also depend on the types of policies and programmes that the Ukrainian Government and the international community put in place to incentivize return.

UNICEF in UkraineReconstruction efforts are already underway in Ukraine, including schools.

UN News: What conditions are needed to encourage people to return home?Michael Newson

: Security is obviously a key criterion. Any incentive programme will have limited impact until people feel comfortable and safe returning home. The people want a sense that their economic situation is stable and they can provide for their families when they return. As such, ensuring basic healthcare and education services are in place is essential.

Developing programmes to link persons abroad with job opportunities in Ukraine even prior to their return will go a long way in encouraging people to return to the country. We often speak about providing financial incentives to return in order to cover the costs associated with returning and reestablishing yourself. This includes security risks, but also economic risks and the risk that if they choose to reverse their decision, they won’t be able to return to their country of refuge. That includes security risks but also the economic risks and the risks that, should they choose to reverse their decision, they won’t be able to return to their country of refuge.

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

: These are precisely the types of conversations we are currently having with colleagues at the Ministry of Economy and International Labour Organization (ILO).(c) UNOCHA/Matteo Minasi

Agriculture is one of the most important industries in Ukraine.

What is absolutely essential is that programmes are evidence-based. It is absolutely essential that programmes are evidence-based. We can also learn lessons from past post-war scenarios.

Developing services for potential returnees that assist and facilitate the process of finding housing, enrolling children in school, finding a job, or linking with healthcare services for existing and chronic health issues will also encourage return. This will ensure a smooth transition. Developing services for potential returnees that assist and facilitate the process of finding housing, enrolling children in school, finding a job, or linking with healthcare services for existing and chronic health issues will also encourage return and ensure a smooth transition.

Agriculture is one of the most important industries in Ukraine.

What we want to avoid is providing incentives for return and reintegration that put returnees in a more favourable position to those who have remained in the country, as this can lead to social tensions.

UN News: If not enough Ukrainians workers return home post-war, how will this affect the job market?

Michael Newson

: Given the demographic situation in Ukraine even before the full-scale invasion, it’s clear that returning Ukrainians, on their own, will not be sufficient to meet the labour market needs of the country going forward, both for reconstruction and the broader economic recovery.

The Ministry of Economy has indicated that an additional 4.5 million workers may be needed in the next 10 years to meet labour market needs and economic objectives.

Incoming labour migration will be one of several tools that will be used in order to address this.

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.

Beyond these priorities, we should also be looking at capital investments such as machinery and automation as well as a re-design of management and operations structures that can increase productivity.UN News: How challenging do you expect the post-war period to be as Ukraine readjusts to peace time?

Michael Newson

: The challenges Ukraine faced even prior to the full-scale invasion were significant. Michael Newson

: The challenges Ukraine faced even before the full-scale invasion were significant.

However I am encouraged and heartened by the Government of Ukraine’s willingness to accept and confront these challenges. Over the last 18 months, the Government and people of Ukraine have shown incredible adaptability and resilience. There is no reason for them to not be able to adapt to the new circumstances when the peace comes, especially with the help of the international community.