How refugees from Ukraine can work in Germany – Economy

The Schlosscafé in Heimbach-Teningen, a small town about 25 kilometers north of Freiburg, has had reinforcements for almost four weeks: Alexandra Herbiei, 21, who is actually a cook in Odessa on the Ukrainian Black Sea coast. Maik Delling, who runs the castle café, had already met her in 2020 at the Culinary Olympics in Stuttgart, says the 41-year-old. When the war in Ukraine begins, he writes to her on Instagram and offers to help. He organizes train tickets and hotel rooms for their escape and takes them into his home. His twelve-year-old son clears his children’s room for her and has been sleeping with his parents ever since.

She overcomes the language barrier – she doesn’t speak German, he doesn’t speak Russian – with a translation app. Herbiei’s mobile phone is always on, she also has an app that goes off when an air raid alarm goes off in Odessa or other places in Ukraine where members of her family live. “I go through very difficult moments of fear,” she says. “Being so far from home hurts like hell.” At the same time, she feels very comfortable in the castle café and is grateful for the help from the Delling family. “Anyone who hires people from the Ukraine has to realize that they aren’t able to work every day,” says Delling, adding that that’s human given the suffering and experiences of the war. But he also raves: “When Alexandra is in a good mood, she goes off like a schnitzel.”

Many of the people who have had to flee Ukraine to Germany since the beginning of the war are looking for work here. Almost everyone who arrives asks this question in the first few days: When and where can I work? Work is important because of course people need money, but it also helps to settle in and integrate, to learn the language. “It’s important to offer people a perspective in terms of time and to integrate them into the job market,” says Pola Schneemelcher from the Berlin think tank, Department of Future. “The people who come from the Ukraine have a high level of education, the children can quickly be integrated into school and care. Rapid integration into the German labor market is therefore possible, and not just in the low-wage sector.”

It is unclear how many people from Ukraine are now in Germany. Since the beginning of the war, the federal police have exactly 369 381 refugees counted from Ukraine in Germany. Most of them are women, children and old people. As a rule, men are not allowed to leave the country, but have to fight. Since Ukrainians can initially enter the EU without a visa for 90 days, the actual number of war refugees who have sought protection in Germany is likely to be significantly higher. According to Schneemelcher, most of the refugees want to return to Ukraine and not stay permanently. “Of course I’ll go home to my family as soon as I can,” says Herbiei from Odessa. Schneemelcher says: “The fact that many of the refugees want to return to their country soon is the basic requirement that we have to work with.” Whether and when that will succeed is another question – after all, the war is ongoing and many places have already been destroyed. “This makes it all the more important to develop prospects of staying.”

The removal of bureaucratic hurdles, some of which have already been decided by the federal-state conference, such as the faster issuing of work permits, is important so that people can work quickly. According to the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs Refugees from the Ukraine are allowed to work in Germany, but they have to apply to the foreigners authority responsible for them. With the provisional document on your right of residence, you will also receive a work permit, with which you can pursue any job in Germany or take up training. But there is a problem: Some of the certificates of study and training cannot be obtained in Ukraine, and it is still unclear whether the refugees will be allowed to work temporarily without them. Daycare places are also rare in many places, and mothers can hardly work without them. It remains to be seen whether the theoretical reduction in bureaucracy works and is sufficient in practice, says Schneemelcher.

“When Alexandra is in a good mood, she goes off like a schnitzel,” enthuses her new employer Maik Delling (middle) about his Ukrainian cook Alexandra Herbiei (2nd from left), here with a colleague.

(Photo: private)

But good will does not have to come from politics alone. Employers who want to help also have many options – and the first companies in Germany are using them. After all, there are many vacancies. It wasn’t easy with Herbiei’s work permit in the castle café in Heimbach-Teningen, says employer Delling. The immigration authorities in his district just can’t keep up with the large number of applications at the moment. He asked the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK), the industry association Dehoga and a local member of the Bundestag for help. At some point, an email came from the office that he could employ Herbiei, but the official document is still missing today. In other parts of Germany, too, Ukrainians have to wait a long time for their papers.

A number of refugees are already working. Since April, there have been 23 new Ukrainian students at the “Unterm Regenbogen” elementary school in Dresden’s Neustadt district, who have their own classroom – and their own teacher, she reports Saxon newspaper. Natalya Teterych is one of the first Ukrainian teachers hired by the state of Saxony, which wants to fill 400 positions so that children from Ukraine can be taught. Deutsche Bahn has already hired some refugees and offers orientation courses in which they can learn German and learn about the German job market. And in the Munich commuter belt, some Ukrainian women are already working as field workers. However, trade unions such as IG Bau have already warned against exploiting refugees from Ukraine as cheap labour.

Ukrainian refugees can remedy the shortage of skilled workers

Some of the people who come to Germany from Ukraine could work as freelancers in this country – after all, Ukraine is an IT center and Germany lacks IT specialists. The European Internet platform Malt, which places highly qualified freelancers, has just one initiative started for the refugees. The Ukrainian professionals can add the hashtag #UkrainianFreelancer to their profile on the Malt platform and companies that want to employ them can search for them directly and hire them directly. “Companies can solve the shortage of skilled workers and do something good at the same time,” says Malt Germany boss Dirk Henke. Malt does not charge any commission for the #UkrainianFreelancers in the first three months. Malt works with Kontist, a self-employed app for banking, accounting and tax advice. Kontist has created a website with information in Ukrainian and Russian on how to become a freelancer here.

Labor market: Deutsche Bahn and the employment agency have set up job advice centers for Ukrainian refugees near the train station in Cologne, Berlin and Frankfurt.  Here Ukrainian refugees are sitting in a job advice center at the main station in Cologne.

Deutsche Bahn and the employment agency have jointly set up job advice centers for Ukrainian refugees near the train stations in Cologne, Berlin and Frankfurt. Here Ukrainian refugees are sitting in a job advice center at the main station in Cologne.

(Photo: Oliver Berg/dpa)

Chip manufacturer Infineon operates a branch in Lviv in western Ukraine. Some people who have fled from other parts of the country have already been hired there and will continue to do so, says a spokesman. Smooth business operations should be maintained. In addition, they are also very committed to supporting colleagues who have fled Ukraine. At many Infineon locations in Germany and other European countries there are vacancies for a whole range of qualifications, not just for technically trained applicants. According to the spokesman, the aim is to “motivate refugees to apply for vacancies with a suitable requirement profile”. The software company SAP also announced a program to “bring together refugees from Ukraine with vacancies in SAP branches around the world.”

Federal Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil does not see the refugees primarily as a remedy for the shortage of skilled workers. “It’s not that we see people as professionals, but first and foremost as people,” said the SPD politician recently. The first thing to do is to find a good place to stay in Germany for the refugees and to take care of them. But he also emphasizes that the newcomers are often well qualified and that they can soon be put into “proper work”. Employers who are interested in this can find help, for example, at “Network companies integrate refugees“, which almost 3000 companies have already joined.

The healthcare industry, which is suffering from a shortage of skilled workers, is particularly open to the Ukrainians – although a lack of language skills is a big problem here, as the German Foundation for Patient Protection warns. The health ministers of the federal states decided last week to quickly recognize the professional qualifications of refugee doctors and nurses from Ukraine. It should also be possible to continue medical training that has been interrupted. Opportunities for post-qualification and rapid official recognition are to be created for nursing staff.

Another industry that is ideal for employing Ukrainian refugees is hospitality. During the Corona crisis, many waitresses, cooks or hotel managers looked for other jobs, so restaurateurs and hoteliers urgently need new employees. In addition, they usually have a lot of experience with foreign colleagues and international teams. According to the Federal Employment Agency, as of June 30, 2021, a total of 345,000 employees subject to social security contributions in the hotel and catering industry were foreign nationals, says Dehoga general manager Ingrid Hartges. “That corresponds to a share of 35.1 percent. In no other industry is the share higher”. Working in a team is also a good opportunity to quickly improve your German skills. According to the associations, both specialists and semi-skilled workers are very useful. Maik Delling and Alexandra Herbiei have shown how it’s done.

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