“What we do for refugees will also benefit us.” Sociologists Yana Leontiyeva, Dušan Drbohlav and Štěpán Kment discuss the integration of Ukrainians in the TV special How They See It…

A quarter of the 44 million Ukrainians have fled Russian aggression. So far, 300,000 of them have come to the Czech Republic, where there is already a large Ukrainian community. What has migration and integration policy in the Czech Republic looked like so far?

“Our migration and integration policies are relatively advanced compared to other post-communist countries. Our readiness and system solution are quite good,” says Dušan Drbohlav, social geographer on the How He Sees It show.

Ukrainians were statistically the largest migrant group before the Russian invasion. “Ukrainians were followed by Vietnamese, Russians and other citizens of the East. In recent years, the economic crisis has also changed quite a bit,” adds sociologist Yana Leontiyeva.

Labor market barriers

Until now, economic migration has dominated in our country. “Typically for unskilled labor. This is due to barriers in the labor market in terms of regulated professions, recognition of qualifications, notification and market preference for domestic workers. We still face this problem,” notes Štěpán Kment, researcher at PAQ Research.

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“But now other people are coming, not workers. Once dominated by men, today it is women. And that is something the state will have to deal with.”

Dušan Drbohlav also agrees with easier employment in lower positions: “It takes a lot more effort and nostrification to gain a foothold in the labor market in higher positions. And that’s a big problem that the EU still can’t solve.”

“Many newcomers have often struggled with the so-called overqualification phenomenon, accepts Yana Leontiyeva. “For a long time, I think the Czech Republic fell asleep. The potential of Ukrainians who have lived here for many years has not been used to make a greater difference in society.”

“But entering the labor market is very important. Especially for someone who has to take any job because he is in economic difficulty. But if he stays in the lower profession for a while, he loses often not only his qualifications, but also his ambitions and time to invest in himself.”

Štěpán Kment completes this burning issue from the point of view of teenagers. “Data from Meta, which cares about refugee education, indicates that half of young foreigners of high school age do not go to high school.”

“This means that the barrier to entry into secondary and higher education is high for them. This, in turn, affects their persistence, their participation in the labor market and the benefits or costs they have for our social system. And how they can develop their skills and talents.”

How long will they stay?

Will it then be possible to apply previous experience with a completely different group of immigrants to the integration of current refugees? “It is important that we have no experience of migrant wars. Not to mention such a number,” Drbohlav emphasizes. “We are ready for labor migration. What is happening now is truly unprecedented. »

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“We don’t even know how long they will stay here. Whether it’s permanent or whether it’s coming back in time. Integrating forced migrants is more difficult than integrating those who came voluntarily.”

However, according to Štěpán Kment, talking about integration can also be insensitive. “A lot of people want to come back, so they may feel uncomfortable integrating here. The state has to be ready not to let them down if they want or need to integrate.”

On the return of migrants to their homeland, Drbohlav adds that there is a so-called return myth. “When asked if they would like to come back, almost all migrants answer yes. But 98% will not come back. But it is also an opportunity for us to reconsider and simplify our entry into the labor market. , it’s really tapping into the human potential that we have here.”

We do it for us

But Yana Leontiyeva again draws attention to the problem of the composition of newcomers. “Mostly women of working age come. We are also dealing with the return of Czech women with young children to the labor market, and here it is suddenly expected that a Ukrainian woman will settle perfectly and continues to apply his education. At the same time, he may not have much experience with the job market in his own country.”

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“Let’s be realistic. Put less pressure on these people, give them opportunities and say that the Czech Republic wants to integrate them.”

According to Dušan Drbohlav, however, time is crucial. This will determine a lot about what will happen in the integration. “Paradoxically, the integration problems are somewhat mitigated by the lack of manpower in the labor market. In fact, one sees the advantages.”

“The state is taking advantage of the situation and filling the gaps in its labor market. The more welcoming the reception has to be. Because what we are going to do for the refugees now, we are actually doing for ourselves.”

Other topics of conversation: How much money will it take to help refugees and their integration? How will the existing Ukrainian community, which is already established in the Czech Republic, accept the new wave of refugees?

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