HeyGermany is experiencing an unprecedented shortage of personnel. Many companies are desperate for applicants. At the same time, more than 870,000 people have fled to Germany since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. While the priority was protection and shelter, many of them now want to work. The Federal Employment Agency (BA) cannot determine precisely how many of the refugees have entered into an employment relationship to date.
However, two figures provide insight: the number of workers with Ukrainian citizenship subject to social security contributions increased by 12,000 from February to April – most of whom are likely to be refugees. And as of June 13, a total of 267,000 Ukrainians of working age were registered at job centers.
“Certainly, for some women, work is a means to an end. But the majority would like to be able to get back on their feet and not depend on social benefits. Some also want to support their families who are still in Ukraine,” says Michaela Ortega-Dax, location manager for Saarland at the Heidelberg company “GFN”, a training provider specializing in IT.
GFN helps Ukrainian women gain a foothold in the labor market with a free hotline and one-on-one guidance in English or Russian.
“Almost all Ukrainian women have worked in their homeland, many also seasonally in Poland, or even in multiple jobs,” says Barbara Holmes, who supports women for GFN in the job search and application process. “The urge to work is great, they don’t want to just sit and do nothing,” she says in an interview with WELT.
“Every call is different. It is often about dealing with authorities and bureaucracy in general. The biggest barrier is language,” Holmes continued. Because whether health insurance, apartment registration or child benefit: The problem is that correspondence is usually only by letter and in German.
“That overwhelms a lot of women.” Frequent official visits to the labor market put the brakes on. there are often overlaps with the already strictly scheduled German courses.
Over 80 percent of Ukrainian refugees are women
According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, more than 80 percent of refugees from Ukraine are women – and more than half of them came with their children. New jobs are often complicated because child care positions for minors are not always guaranteed. However, many companies assume that refugees have good opportunities in the labor market.
“Ukrainian refugees have very good conditions to be successful here. Most of them have an academic education,” says Oliver Herbig, founder of “karriere tutor”. Together with BA, it launched the initiative “Work in Germany” (formerly “Make it in Germany”) and prepares Ukrainians for the labor market.
The teacher of the course is Ukrainian herself, as Herbig reports. Lessons are shaped by personal experience. Whether business administration, IT or engineering: women’s industries are very different.
It is precisely these qualified specialists who have the best chance of being integrated into the labor market. 40 percent of HR managers in Germany believe that these people can find work in local companies. This is the result of the latest survey by the Ifo Institute in collaboration with staffing services provider Randstad among 1000 respondents.
“Companies also see an opportunity here to ease the shortage of skilled workers,” says Ifo economist Julia Freunding. This applies mainly to industrial companies.
However, the integration of unskilled helpers and trainees into the labor market is likely to be more difficult. According to research, the potential is only between 30 and 27 percent. And despite the general optimism, 56 percent of companies expect obstacles when hiring.
Lack of knowledge of German often becomes a problem
“Lack of knowledge of German is more often seen as a problem, and this is especially true in retail,” says Freuding. 86 percent of trading companies classify language as a difficulty. In industry and service providers, 79 percent indicate problems with bureaucratic barriers.
Herbig also mentions a “pretty big language barrier.” Even basic knowledge of English is available to only about half of the participants in his course. “Luckily we have our German-Ukrainian teacher and also a Russian employee who provides our course information in Russian.”
There are also bureaucratic barriers to integration. Many refugees are not familiar with German office procedures. Citizens in Ukraine can use the “Dija” application to complete almost all administrative procedures – be it tax returns, ID renewal or company registration.
In Germany, three different offices are responsible for this and it is often necessary to appear in person for an on-site appointment. Women also receive support from the GFN education provider with applications and negotiations with the authorities. But no coach can replace going to the office.
Ironically, where many of the refugees have found refuge, there is a problem, as the example of Berlin shows: around 4,200 employees in the administration have to be replaced every year, as the “Tagesspiegel” reports. In total, almost a third of the places are to be filled – 5,900 places are already vacant.
In the meantime, most refugees have probably received a work permit. However, the recognition of Ukrainian degrees and certificates is also an obstacle to integration into the labor market, as the Ifo Institute writes. Counselor Holmes can confirm this based on several individual fates.
She recently advised a dentist who had applied to a practice in Saarbrücken – her job failed for now because her diploma was rejected.
And even a Ukrainian woman who applied to be a dishwasher assistant was not hired. A knowledge of German is said to have been necessary for instruction on safety and health regulations.
The companies believe that the refugees will return to their homes
Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) had announced that he would ensure faster and digital processes here. However, Holmes complains: “So far nothing has changed in the recognition of qualifications. I don’t understand why it’s so hard. The deficits can be better compensated by refugees at work instead of just sitting in German classes for months.”
Uncertainty also plays a role in staff recruitment as the length of stay of refugees is unpredictable, the research shows. The end of the war is not yet in sight. However, the companies surveyed tend to assume that sooner or later refugees will want to return home.
“All in Stocks” is the daily stock market take from WELT’s business editorial team. Every morning from 7am with our financial journalists. For stock market experts and beginners. Subscribe to the podcast at Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and deezer. Or directly from RSS feed.