First of all, the war made employment in Ukraine less protected. Our labour legislation was weak even before the war, and its implementation was poorly controlled by the state and trade unions. Under martial law, the rights of workers were seriously limited, while companies were able to fire workers and/or minimize personnel costs. Scheduled control of labour inspectors has been stopped, they can only respond to complaints from employees or authorities, or to accidents. An employer can fire an employee during sick or regular leaves, and without the consent of the trade union. The employer can unilaterally cancel the provisions of the collective agreement, without any justification. Also unilaterally, the employer can initiate the suspension of individual employment contracts with their employees. In this case, the employer must issue an order indicating the reason for the suspension, and certify it with the military administration at the location. Also, an employer can "ask" its employees to apply for unpaid leave. Such a suspension or unpaid leave can cover the entire period of martial law. During this time, employees will not receive any compensation payments and will not be able to apply for unemployment benefits or partial unemployment benefits.
Also, the war limits the effectiveness of market principles, and thereby narrows the labour market. Mobilization and a ban on crossing the border limit employment opportunities for men, including previously popular labour migrations. Due to destruction and shutdown of enterprises, people have to turn to informal employment and subsistence agriculture.
We need a comprehensive labour market and employment policy harmonized with economic, financial and other policies. The protection of workers' rights should be strengthened in law and practice, especially with regard to the formalization of labour relations and wage guarantees."
What public measures would you propose to protect or create jobs in the country?
We need a comprehensive labour market and employment policy harmonized with economic, financial and other policies. The protection of workers' rights should be strengthened in law and practice, especially with regard to the formalization of labour relations and wage guarantees. As a first step, partial unemployment benefits need to be made more accessible to employees. Under the current rules, an employer must submit an application form and information about employees who are eligible for benefits to the state employment center. The number of employees eligible for benefits must be at least 20% of the total staff, and the reduction in their wages must be at least 30%. The employer must not have arrears in the payment of wages and social contributions, and must not be an budget institution. If the employer does not submit the application form or does not meet the criteria, employees will not receive benefits. Under martial law, employees will be better protected if they have the right to directly apply for benefits, with less criteria. For example, the criterion that the enterprise has no arrears in the payment of wages and social contributions in the previous six months can be cancelled.
Given the scale of destruction, the problem of job protection and creation cannot be solved only by stimulating small businesses and the service sector. The plan for large-scale construction of industrial enterprises and infrastructure must be implemented after the war, with state and donor support.
After the war, some experts predict a shortage of labour. Why is that, and what will be the professions in high demand?
The main reason for the labour shortage is population decline. Before the war, Ukraine was one of the five countries with the largest relative reductions in population size in the world. Moreover, the reduction occurs in the working-age population, which is a consequence of a sharp decline in the fertility rate after the collapse of the USSR in the 1990s. According to the State Statistics Service of Ukraine, the population aged 16-59 decreased by 2.3 million persons (almost 9 percent) in 2015-2021.
The war caused an outflow of refugees and further accelerated the population decline. After the end of the war, there may be a new wave of emigration, when men will be able to leave the country. According to the UN World Population Prospects 2022, the total migration losses of Ukraine due to the war can reach about 5 million persons (including those who returned). Losses in killed and wounded during the war (not only in the military) will exacerbate the shortage of labour. Direct losses at the front damage the working-age population mostly.
After the war, the volume and structure of demand in the labour market will be determined by the pace of recovery. In any case, there will be demand for mass professions such as salespeople, drivers, cleaners, teachers, doctors, nurses, etc. Obviously, there will be an increased demand for construction, “blue collars” and elementary occupations.