Ukrainians on labour market 'here to stay', says Migration Minister

Ukrainians on labour market 'here to stay', says Migration Minister
Credit: Belga / Nicolas Maeterlinck

Belgium’s Asylum and Migration Minister, Sammy Mahdi, is seeking to make it possible for Ukrainian refugees to continue to work in Belgium after their status of temporary recognition expires.

The Migration Minister has prepared a bill that would allow Belgium to retain the profiles that the labour market needs the most, Bruzz reports.

Refugees from Ukraine are granted temporary protection status, allowing them to start working immediately. Today almost 45,000 certificates of temporary protection have been issued, of which more than 28,000 are for adults who are eligible to work.

According to the most recent figures, 1,700 Ukrainians have applied for vacancies in Brussels and Flanders so far, via the Flemish Service for Employment and Vocational Training (VDAB).

But, Mahdi warns that if their status of temporary protection expires, we risk losing a lot of profiles that can be useful on the Belgian labour market. “Many Ukrainian refugees want to work and contribute to our society. But the end of their status as temporarily displaced persons hangs over their heads like a sword of Damocles.”

Moreover, today there is uncertainty for employers to give Ukrainians permanent contracts of longer or even indefinite duration. “Ukrainians who want to work or are working and suddenly lose their job would, from one day to the next, entail a great loss of talent and a loss for our labour market.”

Shortages in various professions

While in Flanders, 1,700 Ukrainians are looking for a job, about 5,000 vacancies have been registered for Ukrainians, and 17% of Ukrainians have already found a job.

Nearly 1,300 out of the job-seekers are women and 58% of the total number is highly skilled. The majority of candidates show an interest in the sector of services to individuals and companies, which includes, for example, cleaning and catering - which are all professions facing shortages.

One in five of the candidates are interested in business logistics, in retail and in the ICT sector. 15% show interest in jobs in industry, and 10% in healthcare and education.

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However, out of the 5,000 open vacancies, more than 3,3000 are for the cleaning profession. In second place, with more than 300 vacancies, are occupations in fruit growing and horticulture, all of which are shortage occupations.

Work-based residence and language training

The Belgian Minister wants the refugees to be able to switch to work-based residence via the single permit system, which combines the admission to work and residence in one permit, so Ukrainians can keep working in Belgium long-term.

The Federal Government will check whether a third-country national meets the conditions to be allowed to stay in Belgium, after which the regions determine access to specific categories of work.

With job and language coaching, their first steps on the Flemish labour market should go as smoothly as possible. Flemish Minister of Employment Jo Brouns wants to do everything possible to lead as many candidates as possible to professions facing shortages.

“Their knowledge of Dutch is limited, while a third speak good to very good English. It is therefore crucial to invest in language training, and we are doing that,” said Minister Brouns.

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