Lack of English cited by Ukrainian refugees as main barrier to work

Survey shows obstacles facing arrivals from Ukraine finding employment, despite high levels of university education among refugees

Not being able to speak English is the main reason cited by Ukrainians as to why they cannot find work in Ireland, according to a survey.

A volunteer group of Ukrainians living in the State for many years, calling themselves CV2WorkSupport, conducted the online survey over the last two months between 900 and 1,000 people who have fled the country since the Russian invasion last year.

It reveals why many, even with 67 per cent university education levels, cannot find work and points to the need for English language classes and mentors to help Ukrainians secure jobs.

Some 70 per cent of respondents said a lack of English prevented them from finding jobs, followed by problems with getting Ukrainian qualifications recognised in Ireland (45 per cent), the lack of integration into Irish society (40 per cent) and having young children (40 per cent).


Other reasons given for not being able to find work was not knowing where to start (40 per cent) or that there was not enough work in their locality (37 per cent). Some 27 per cent said they had a fear of moving within Ireland, while 23 per cent said they had problems with their CVs. Some 14 per cent said they feared losing social welfare benefits.

The research found many Ukrainians plan to stay in Ireland long-term because they are afraid to return home with the continuing Russian attacks on their homeland and are looking into the possibility of securing mortgages, business loans, qualifications and education in Ireland.

Some 83 per cent expressed concerns that the insecure nature of their immigration status under temporary protection is preventing them from investing in businesses and developing projects.

Almost three-quarters of the respondents were women. Overall, some 47 per cent of respondents were aged between 41 and 50, while 32 per cent were aged between 31 and 40, and 13 per cent were aged between 51 and 60. The majority of potential jobseekers, some 70 per cent, were living in Dublin.

The survey found that the vast majority of Ukrainian arrivals are well-educated. Some 12 per cent had the equivalent of a Leaving Cert, 25 per cent had a post-secondary qualification, 67 per cent had a bachelor’s degree, 17 per cent had a masters and 8 per cent had a doctorate.

“We can see from our research that there is a need to overcome current obstacles in getting employment for newly arrived people or for those who are looking for help,” said Olena Korniiets, a volunteer with CV2WorkSupport.

The group found that many respondents believed they could find work if they had better English and if they had more social interaction and contacts with Irish people.

“People are looking for mentors, whom they can call and ask simple questions in their language. This is very important for Ukrainians to have that safety net: the possibility to call someone,” the group said.

The research found many Ukrainians had worked in education and health at home and that if their Ukrainian qualifications were recognised in Ireland, they would be able to work here.

The lack of access to early childhood education and care was described as a “serious barrier” to finding work by those with young children, according to the research.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times