Under half of Ukrainians in Latvia are employed

Almost 9,000 Ukrainian civilians in Latvia are currently employed here or have a company of their own. Although employment in this group increased last year, it is still less than half of the total number of working Ukrainians in Latvia, Latvian Radio reported on January 24.

 Asylum seeker support organizations say Ukrainians are active in the labor market, but the main obstacles are access to language training, retraining opportunities, as well as job offers without a contract.

Some 24 thousand Ukrainians currently residing in Latvia are of working age, according to data compiled by the Ministry of Economics. Meanwhile, current data from the State Revenue Service (VID) show that the number of Ukrainians working is only around 8,400. That's still almost a thousand more than last year.

Ukrainian civilians encounter challenges in the Latvian labor market, as well as some are working remotely in other countries, said Linda Jākobsone-Gavala, a Board Member of the society “I want to help refugees.”

“Of course, a person with knowledge of the Latvian language in the labor market has much more opportunities, and this is one of the issues that we especially raise, because we see that free courses in the Latvian language are available, but with significant interruptions,” Jākobsone-Gavala explained.

The last time to apply for free state courses was in October, and the next time will be in March.

“The second thing we see is that Ukrainian civilians are employed in jobs that are lower than their professional knowledge and past experience. And there are a number of professions that need retraining here in Latvia. ”

According to the VID data, Ukrainians in Latvia work in sectors such as catering, retail trade, freight transport, hospitality, hospital work, as well as construction. The most sought-after specialties are auxiliary worker, a chef or assistant, a cashier and a janitor. In turn, about 470 Ukrainians registered their economic activity in Latvia last year, mostly in the field of beauty and in the field of postal and courier activities.

“I want to help refugees” observed that more Ukrainians could form their own company, but there is a lack of knowledge about the system and also employment contracts in Latvia.

Since the beginning of the war, the State Employment Agency (NVA) has provided support to more than 26 thousand Ukrainians in Ukraine who have turned to the agency both for consultations or for unemployment status, which has now been granted to 1,655 persons.

Ukrainians are also applying for a one-off employment benefit, which the government has allocated an additional 1.4 million euros this year. NVA spokeswoman Vineta Leončika said last year the number of customers from Ukraine had gradually decreased.

“The number of customers applying for this one-off allowance has dropped significantly. In December, NVA received these submissions from 176 customers, but in April and May 2022, we received around 2,000 submissions a month,” Leončika said.

“The purpose of the benefit is to provide financial support up to the first salary, as perhaps taking up employment is at a time when there may still be an active need to seek residence or higher transport expenses right at the initial stage of the employment relationship,” an NVA spokeswoman noted.

Currently, the most Ukrainians – around 20 thousand – live in Riga.

Pēteris Grūbe, head of the Rīga support center for Ukrainian residents, said that on a total of 24 job exchanges at the center, around 100 companies offered around 4,700 vacancies. At the same time, Grūbe observed that Ukrainians who have sought work themselves often face problems in the labor market.

“Their challenges are, as I say, that we have a different understanding of Europe and everything, and Ukraine is still living a little bit in the past, in a way, because they start working with quite a lot of confidence without entering into employment contracts.

“As far as we also hear from our counselors here, there is very often a problem that the employee hasn't been paid, but the employee has not entered into a contract of employment and therefore little can be done and helped there. As a result, explanatory work is great, all these socio-economic inclusion lessons where we explain that it is much stricter here, and at times we also teach people to protect themselves,” Grūbe noted.

According to the Ministry of the Interior data, Latvia's municipalities currently have a total of 32,247 thousand Ukrainian civilians registered.

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