Gennadiy Rusanov is the owner of the Ukrainian recruitment company ‘International Labour Centre’. Photo: Stefan Weichert

The demand for Ukrainian workers will only grow as salaries in Eastern Ukraine increases overall, says the CEO of a Ukrainian recruitment center to Ukrainenu. To keep attractive, Scandinavian companies will need to offer more support.

The average salary in other Eastern European countries such as Poland is growing rapidly these years as Ukraine’s neighbors are experiencing substantial growth. Historically, Polish workers have played a big role in Scandinavia, where about 35,000 Polish people for example are said to be working in Denmark at the moment. 

That, however, might soon be changing as companies in Poland are able to pay more and the Polish government is also actively working on bringing their workers home. Gennadiy Rusanov is the owner of the Ukrainian recruitment company ‘International Labour Centre’ and he says that he is seeing a shift with more foreign companies looking to Ukraine.

“We are seeing that Polish workers, for example, are getting too expensive for foreign companies, looking for employees and we are hearing that some Polish workers are also ready to go home,” says Rusanov to Ukrainenu, who doesn’t expect that to change, “Workers from Poland can now earn nearly the same at home as they can in countries such as Denmark when tax and living costs are taken into consideration.”

“The result is that companies are now looking towards Ukraine,” says Rusanov, whose company works with several companies in Scandinavia, Europe, and North America overall in areas such as construction, processing, truck driving, and other professions.

The average salary for a worker in Poland is about 5504.52 PLN (about 1.200 euro) per month, according to Tradingseconomic, while the same number for Ukraine is about 14239 UAH (about 470 euro). 

The average salary in Poland in PLN over the last ten years, according to Tradingeconomics.


The average salary in Ukraine in UAH over the last ten years, according to Tradingeconomics.


Need to fight for them

The higher salaries and the low unemployment rate in Poland also makes it an exciting destination for Ukrainian workers. Rusanov says that more countries are now competing for Ukrainian workers as demand is growing in both Western and Eastern Europe. He says that Scandinavian companies will need to be aware of this competition. 

“Some might imagine that working outside of Ukraine is a dream for everyone, but it is actually not. There is a fragile balance. Besides Western Europe, Ukrainians can decide to go to Poland or other countries such as the Czech Republic, so there is competition for these workers and the breakeven point for Ukrainians to go work abroad in Western Europe is quite high at the moment,” says Rusanov, arguing that a Ukrainian worker expects to be able to save or send home a minimum of 1.000 euro when working in Scandinavia. 

He argues that Scandinavian companies, therefore, need to make themselves more attractive to Ukrainian workers. That could happen by raising salaries, but it also means being ready to cover extra costs related to moving and accommodation. Sometimes, workers must pay for medical exams, travel, and other initial costs before even starting work, which is a barrier to choosing to work abroad. 

Companies can make themselves more attractive if they are ready to pay those costs, explains Rusanov. It also includes being prepared to help with paperwork and other administrative things, such as setting up a bank account and registering for taxes.

“You need to understand the reasoning for leaving, and there are largely two groups. One group are young people without family, who just want to go and earn some money and the second group is workers who want to send money home,” says Rusanov, “The latter is focusing on sending enough money home to give their family a good life.”

The more attractive Poland

Rusanov says that Ukrainian workers are more inclined to go to Poland than Western Europe. This is because in Poland, the culture is more similar and the language easier to learn. Furthermore, the country is closer to home, and the salaries are not always much smaller than in Western Europe, which makes it an obvious choice for Ukrainians. 

“Also, some workers are not so critically thinking that they see that they can earn more money down the road by taking a job in Western Ukraine compared to Poland. They look at the initial costs, which are lower in Poland, and choose Poland,” he says.

“I can understand why employers in Western Europe are reluctant to pay for these initial costs before the workers even come because he or she might not work out, but companies should understand that it puts up a barrier,” says Rusanov, “Moving is a huge lifechanging decision for these Ukrainians, and it is hard, so they choose the easiest way.”

“Many skilled workers will be able to earn between 15.000 to 20.000 UAH per month in Ukraine, so they expect to earn twice that in Poland and more in Western Europe,” he adds.

3.2 million Ukrainians work abroad, according to a 2019 estimate by Ukraine’s Ministry of Social Policy. It has contributed to the decline in the Ukrainian population by 28 percent since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The World Bank estimated in 2019 that 10.3 percent of the Ukrainian GDP, about $15.8 billion, comes from remittances. 

The Ukrainian government recently introduced cheap loans for Ukrainian startups to keep Ukrainians at home, and it wants to do more to keep workers in Ukraine. 

“We are leaders in Europe in terms of the number of able-bodied people working abroad… We must replace the phrase ‘I want to leave’ with ‘I want to return,” said the Ukrainian Minister of Economy Oleksii Lyubchenko back in July

Easier for skilled workers

Rusanov also says that there is a problem for certain professions who want to work in Western Europe. Nurses, lawyers, and specific engineers have obstacles due to their job being regulated and the hard language requirements. Usually, he says, people are required to pass particular certifications or exams to work abroad, which is also a barrier. 

“It takes quite a bit of time for workers to overcome these barriers. Not everyone knows English very well, and their standards are not recognized,” he says, “Companies need to be more patient and they need to invest some time and money into these workers before they are ready to come. A lot of people are ready to go, but the barriers are too big.”

Rusanov gives an example. An English company wanted to have butchers sent there, but they would rather go to Ireland to work in a similar job because they didn’t require them to speak English in Ireland. England was not attractive, says Rusanov. 

“So, there are those barriers, and it is a competitive market, so companies and governments need to be aware of this and try to remove these barriers or be ready to give workers time to adjust by supporting language learning and paying for administrative stuff,” says Rusanov. 

“You have to look at these people as if they have a disability. They are new in the country; they don’t know the language, they don’t know the system, they don’t know anything. They have skills in their profession, but everything else is new.”