Ukrainian economists and government representatives, in an effort to rebuild with a thriving economy, are looking for ways to entice Ukrainians who left the country due to the war to return home. The recent Human Capital UA forum showed data that more than 6 million Ukrainians are living and working abroad, representing a major problem for the country’s development going forward.

Many of the able-bodied population who couldn’t adapt to the realities of the war, or lost their jobs here, or are not satisfied with the level of earnings are now living outside Ukraine. There are many cases of departure of entire families, which may indicate these people don’t plan to return to Ukraine. This lack of what economists call human capital is an important economic indicator.

This large absence of human capital negatively affects the country’s economic situation, only adding to the problems of constant bombardment by Russia, and the destruction of infrastructure and entire cities.

Forum participants believe that, despite these statistics, the process of recovery and development should include the development of human potential, human capital, which will ensure a high rate of economic growth at the level of at least 7 percent annually.

According to the head of the NGO Ea’syBusiness, Dmytro Lyvch, the problem arises with the definition of what human capital is: “Unfortunately, there is no clear definition of human capital in Ukraine now. Although at least nine strategic documents, such as the national economic strategy, the human development strategy, the barrier-free space development strategy and many others, in one way or another rely on the definition of human capital.”

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He says that the discussion about this is happening not only in Ukraine. Many international organizations are trying to determine what constitutes human capital. Some of them believe that it is a combination of education, health care and social conditions.

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Lyvch believes Ukraine needs to create mechanisms to invest in the development of human capital in the country and solve the problems of how to preserve it, how to return Ukrainians home, and how to involve the diaspora in the country’s restoration and development.

In a negative scenario, the forum estimates the non-return of forced migrants would cost Ukraine $113 billion in lost GDP over 10 years.

Yulia Svyrydenko, First Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Economy of Ukraine, says that the government should have a strategy for the return of Ukrainians. But from her words it becomes clear that this strategy doesn’t exist. There are some projects and programs, but it’s not clear whether their outcome would be effective.

Despite this, the government expects that Ukrainians who gained experience abroad, learned new foreign languages, and received additional qualifications will return to rebuild the country.

Currently, the Ministry of Economy is paying attention to the demining of territories where active hostilities have taken place, or which are near front line territories. The security factor is key to the return of entrepreneurs, especially farmers. So, Svyrydenko said the government is planning to launch a demining project.

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“Agrarians will be able to go to the ProZorro electronic public procurement system and purchase demining services,” says Svyrydenko. “As a government, we will partially compensate the cost of demining money, thus stimulating the demand for this service, and stimulating the entry of new private operators into this market who would be engaged in this. Without demining, people will not be able to return safely, first, to the front-line territories.”

The government also is offering to issue grants for private business development. During the year, more than 8,000 people received such grants.

“We see that 19,000 jobs were created during this period. And these grants, in fact, are returned in the form of taxes and fees to the budgets of various levels. It seems to us that for those who cannot find a job, there is a good result and a good opportunity to create one,” says Svyrydenko.

The program will continue to operate next year, and it is also planned to involve more veterans of the war against Russia.

The Ministry says that there is an opportunity to study for those who want to get a new qualification or are ready to start their own business, but there is not enough experience, knowledge or expertise for this.

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Minister of Social Policy Oksana Zholnovych and Minister of Health Viktor Lyashko were less specific. They talked about what still needs to be done, but almost never mentioned the results.

Such uncertain political statements may leads to the public that it is easier for government representatives to voice what is wrong with the system than to come up with a plan to fix it. It may take a lot of time and Ukraine currently does not have such a luxury - everything must be done quickly and professionally to give the country’s economy a second lease on life.

The participants also talked about education. Deputy Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine Mykhailo Vinnytsky said that it is now necessary to destroy the stereotypes that higher education in Ukraine is bad, that universities are bad. So, they say there is a plan “so that every student feels his own subjectivity in the educational institution, and this will lead to the subjectivity of our state in general.”

Ella Libanova, director of Ptukha Institute for Demography and Social Studies, called on the authorities to create opportunities for people who are not yet thought of as labor force. For example, children who will eventually grow up and who will seek their place in society.

Libanova said the next step is to think about war migrants (she urges everyone not to call Ukrainians who left the country because of the war refugees). She predicts that only half of these people will return to Ukraine.

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But, according to Libanova, those who remain abroad are no less important. “When we talk about the Ukrainian diaspora, we must understand that the diaspora is not only those who left two generations ago or 20 years ago. These are also the people who left two years ago (when the full-scale invasion of Russia began). The main thing is that they form a positive image of Ukrainians and Ukraine abroad,” she said.

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