A decade after their country gained independence, tens of millions of Ukrainians continue to work without pay, lack access to adequate health coverage and avoid seeking help from government agencies when faced by economic or social crises, according to a pair of new surveys by the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The United Nations agency's sampling of more than 1,800 factories found that many workers are put on "administrative leave" for many months, or are uncompensated despite showing up for work. And although Ukraine is one of the most populous countries in Europe, with 50 million people, the population has shrunk by nearly two million due largely to the drop in life expectancy among men.
The survey also discovered a unique feature to Ukraine's economy in that women account for a majority of all those who are employed, even as employment has shrunk by one-third since 1991.
Meanwhile, a survey of 8,200 adults has found that more than 80 per cent of Ukrainians lack access to adequate health services, one in every seven works in "very unsafe" conditions and that more than 40 per cent of workers have not been paid over the previous three months. On average, adults thought that real unemployment in the country was about 40 per cent, more than three times the official rate, and a majority expected it to rise.
The ILO warns that mass unemployment has arrived in Ukraine and that much more is to come, a worrying development because most jobless workers do not receive unemployment benefits while those who do, get an extremely small amount. The agency says it is essential for the welfare of workers and their families that these benefits are raised and be made available to more unemployed people.
"The labour market situation in Ukraine is desperate, contributing to the reduced life expectancy in the country and the flow of people into central and western Europe," ILO says. "Many millions of workers are suffering acutely. Their plight deserves more attention than it has received."