Milo Gwynne joined us for work experience in July 2020. He spent time researching economic conditions in eastern Europe as a result of Covid-19, and the impact the pandemic has had on our employment programmes there. Here he sums up what he learned:
In most of the nations that World Jewish Relief work with in Eastern Europe, the outlook of the impacts of Covid-19 can be quite good, for example Ukraine has recorded 1,693 deaths and this is significantly less than a good deal of nations in Western Europe*. However, the price these nations have paid economically is significant. Unemployment statistics are inaccurate as most of the work in the nations is informal, not on the Government books fully, and the reality is that nations like Ukraine and Moldova are rapidly entering recession. Over six million people in Ukraine are going to be pushed into poverty, and the monthly salary is projected to decrease by 17%.
This will have a large impact on the work World Jewish Relief has done to find employment for people in Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and Georgia, amongst other nations, because the sectors people seeking employment are trained to enter generally centre around working in hospitality, beauty or tourism** and these sectors are among the most affected by Covid-19, both during lockdown and after it, due to closure of businesses.
45% of people in World Jewish Relief employment schemes in eastern Europe have either had a wage reduction or been made redundant, and this has meant that World Jewish Relief is having to change strategy in order to help those that need it more than ever to find jobs again or to find employment for the first time.
Some of the effects of job loss have gone further than just having to look for a new place of work. Some of the worst affected people are single mothers, people who have to care for their older relatives, and people renting apartments. In all of these cases and more, emotional trauma can occur, and World Jewish Relief is providing much needed psychological support to deal with a large amount of stress that many people have been dealing with.
One person who has struggled as a result of Coronavirus is Liudmilla, who lives in Moldova with her young son. She was part of the ‘Step to Success’ programme in 2014 and has spoken about about how much confidence and knowledge the course gave her. However, though she worked from 2014 until 2020 in a stable job as a hairdresser, her income entirely stopped in March as she could no longer go to work due to lockdown and as she realised it would continue until mid-May, she knew it would be hard for her family to live without income, not knowing when she could go back to work.
World Jewish Relief was able to provide food packages to Liudmilla, alleviating the immediate economic pressure on her family. However, the charity wants her to be able to make a steady long-term income again, and will be enrolling her onto their new ‘Bounce Back’ employment programme.
Moreover, World Jewish Relief is helping clients who have already graduated the employment programmes to keep working in whatever capacity they can, with many clients who work in sport, fitness and tutoring attending their courses in ‘Online Business’ and ‘Conducting Business on Social Media’ to help them work online, from home. People and communities have come together to help with certain issues, too- shoes are difficult and expensive to buy, and there are some community pages set up to give away spare clothing to others who may need it more.
World Jewish Relief is now looking to the future; which industries require more workers, what courses are going to be more useful to prioritise. They continue with their commitment to support their participants to find employmement whatever the circumstances so that they are financially stable and can live with independence and dignity.
World Jewish Relief footnotes:
*While offical statistics are good, Ukraine has the lowest testing rate of any country in Europe.
** Our training focuses on areas where there are good employment opportunities. Prior to Covid 19, the sectors detailed were bouyant economic environments. As a result of Covid-19 many graduates of our programmes have lost their jobs and we are working to upskill them for employment opportunities that are now available.