Many Ukrainians fled their country in February 2022 when Russia invaded Ukraine. They thought they would be away for a short time. However, as the war continues, many are thinking about setting up homes in their new countries.
If the people who left never come back, Ukraine will have to recover from the war with a much smaller population.
The country will have to clean up and rebuild. It will also have economic problems without as many workers and business owners.
The United Nations’ refugee agency, UNHCR, said its research shows most Ukrainians who left last year want to return home. However, some are starting businesses or finding good work in new countries. They may only return for visits.
Natalka Korzh is one of the refugees. She lives in Portugal now. She left a newly built home when Russia invaded her country.
In Ukraine, she worked directing television programs. Now in Portugal, she wants to start a charity organization that will help other refugees. She told the Reuters news agency she is not sure if she will go home when the war ends.
Volodymyr Kostiuk is the chief of Farmak, a Ukrainian company that makes drugs. He once had 3,000 employees and the company earned $200 million each year. He said he faces a worker shortage. He is worried about the company’s success if people do not return home.
"We need to somehow try to return them to Ukraine, because we already see that the longer people are abroad, the less they want to return", said Kostiuk.
A Ukrainian research organization asked 500 businesses about their top concerns for a post-war economy. About one-third said they saw worker shortages as the top problem.
Many men are still in Ukraine because they were required to serve in the military, but women and children left as refugees.
Another Ukrainian research group, the Centre for Economic Strategy, said more than half of the women who left had some higher education.
While businesses are worried about workers, they are also concerned about having fewer people who can buy their products.
Fozzy Group runs food stores in Ukraine. Some of their stores around Kyiv have opened after closing in the first part of the war. However, not as many people buy products as before.
Dmytro Tsygankov is in charge of new products for Fozzy. He said Ukraine’s stores cannot recover from the war when so many people are away.
“We have several million people who simply do not buy anything,” he said. “They are not in the country.”
More shoppers came in May compared to last year. But there were 16 percent fewer shoppers compared to the same month in 2021.
Another problem is Ukraine’s fertility rate. The fertility rate is the average number of children that a female would have in her life. Most of the people who remain in the country are old. Ella Libanova works for the National Academy of Science of Ukraine. She said the fertility rate has dropped from 0.9 to 0.7.
The U.S. estimates as many as 15,000 working age men have been killed or wounded in the war.
In addition, Libanova said, once the war ends, it is not clear that the men will stay in Ukraine. Many will leave to join their families in other countries.
She said there is a risk: “We will lose young, qualified, enterprising, educated people. That is the problem.”
She also said Ukraine’s population was already shrinking before the war. But if you consider the land seized by Russia during the war, Ukraine’s population may only be 28 million compared to 41 million at the start of 2022.
A study by the European Commission said the country’s population could be 20 to 30 percent lower over the next 30 years.
In February, the Center for Economic Strategy asked 1,000 Ukrainian refugees about their plans for the end of the war. The group expects between 860,000 and 2.7 million might stay away for good. The group said Ukraine’s economy could shrink by 2.5 to 7.7 percent each year.
While business leaders are worried, some in the government believe patriotic Ukrainians cannot wait to come home. Oleksiy Sobolev is deputy economic minister. At a recent group discussion, he said he thought 75 percent of the refugees would come home within three years of the war’s end.
I’m Dan Friedell. And I’m Anna Mateo.
Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on a report by Reuters.
Words in This Story
enterprising –adj. having or showing the desire to do new and difficult things
We want to hear from you. Do you think enough people will come home to Ukraine when the war ends?
Here is how our comment system works:
- Write your comment in the box.
- Under the box, you can see four images for social media accounts. They are for Disqus, Facebook, Twitter and Google.
- Click on one image and a box appears. Enter the login for your social media account. Or you may create one on the Disqus system. It is the blue circle with “D” on it. It is free.
Each time you return to comment on the Learning English site, you can use your account and see your comments and replies to them. Our comment policy is here.