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Ukraine could lose $113 billion if refugees don’t come back

Ukrainian refugees at the Polish border, February 2022. Credit: depositphotos
Ukraine could lose $113 billion if refugees don’t come back
Without a good plan for getting migrants to return, Ukraine could lose up to $113 billion in GDP over 10 years, a study warns

According to a study conducted by NGO EasyBusiness and the Center for Economic Recovery (CER), if Ukrainian refugees will not return to Ukraine, the country’s GDP will lose $113 billion over 10 years (in 2021 prices). Currently, between 3.8 and 4.7 million forced migrants are abroad, excluding Belarus and Russia, with approximately 1.4 million of working age, Ekonomichna Pravda writes, referring to the report.

The study believes that about one in three of these migrants will definitely come back to Ukraine. But as they get used to life in their new countries, fewer and fewer want to return. More Ukrainians are finding jobs, sending their kids to local schools, and getting the training they need to work abroad.

For these migrants, safety is the biggest concern. Those who have already returned home say that conditions are tough. The fact that their stay in their new countries might be limited is also a big worry. People from the war zone are the most willing to come back if they can get help with housing, finding a job, and financial support.

Ending the war, boosting the economy, and rebuilding homes and infrastructure are the main things that will encourage Ukrainians to come home. But even if most migrants come back, Ukraine will still need to attract between 3.1 and 4.5 million workers by 2032 to keep the economy growing at a rate of 7% per year.

Without a good plan for getting migrants to return, Ukraine could lose up to $113 billion in GDP over 10 years, which could also mean missing out on about $45 billion in tax revenues. This is a big deal, especially since the economy shrank by 29.2% in 2022.

The study suggests three ways to encourage migrants to return:

  1. Ukraine needs to work with other countries and keep in touch with migrants to make sure it can get its citizens back.
  2. The government needs to meet people’s basic needs, like rebuilding homes and infrastructure and creating jobs.
  3. The government should introduce incentives to encourage people to return.

In March 2022, the EU started giving Ukrainian migrants temporary protection for up to three years. When this ends, the EU will have to decide whether to let migrants stay or make them return home.

Given how qualified and young Ukrainian migrants are, and how well they’re treated compared to migrants from other countries like Syria, it’s likely that EU countries will want to keep them after their temporary protection ends.

So, the study suggests that Ukraine should start talking to the EU now about how to get migrants to return voluntarily.

Since the war started, European countries have given more than 43 billion euros to provide shelter for Ukrainians. This is about the same as what Ukraine spends in a year.

Between 24 February 2022, and 3 January 2023, almost 8 million Ukrainians registered in Europe for temporary protection.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, as of June 2023, there were 6.3 million Ukrainian refugees registered around the world.

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