Ludmilla’s very own Ludmilla

Around 15 per cent of Ukrainian refugees in Switzerland have a job. That is significantly more than for other migrant groups. One of them is Ludmilla.

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Ludmilla fled to Switzerland in April 2022 with her twelve-year-old son. When she arrived, she registered at the federal asylum centre in Bern and was granted protection status S. From the start it was clear to her that she wanted to work while she was in Switzerland and not to be dependent on others. “I found what I was looking for on Gastro Bern’s Ukraine job platform,ˮ says Ludmilla, who is from Kyiv. Since June last year, Ludmilla has been working – how could it be otherwise – in Ludmilla’s, a restaurant in Bern’s Breitenrain district.

A classic win-win situation

Simon Burkhalter, manager of Ludmilla’s, was desperately searching for staff when he consulted the Gasto Bern website a year ago. “In view of the shortage of skilled workers, the search was very time-consuming and also sometimes frustrating. Thanks to the job platform, however, Ludmilla was hired within a few days – a blessing,ˮ he says.

When asked about Ludmilla, the young restaurant manager says enthusiastically: “She works very well, the guests appreciate how openly she approaches them, despite occasional language difficulties.ˮ

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Since last year, Ludmilla has been working in … Ludmilla’s.

Ludmilla regularly attends German classes and is making progress. “I understand what a ‘Dreier Roten’ is very well,ˮ she says, smiling, adding that she uses a mix of English and German to communicate with customers. In general, the guests, particularly the Swiss, are very friendly and helpful, and always say ‘hello’. And to illustrate how well she is coming along with the local dialect, she utters a guttural, almost accent-free “Grüessechˮ.

Two different worlds

Ludmilla cannot yet say whether she will return to Ukraine one day. There are good reasons not to. Of the two visits she made to her home country last year, she says, contemplatively: “It was very sad. So many buildings have been destroyed, friends have died – at the moment there is no perspective.ˮ She is therefore grateful that her mother will soon be joining her in Switzerland. Her mother is a reminder of home and can help Ludmilla to look after her son, who is usually at home alone when Ludmilla works in the restaurant two days a week.

Her boss will soon be increasing her working hours. “We are a socially-minded employer and respond to the requests of our staff whenever possible. All our employees receive an employment contract, even if they only work one day a week; no one is on an hourly rate,ˮ Simon Burkhalter says, adding that people from other cultural backgrounds are an enrichment for the company in every respect. In the three restaurants he runs, 7 of his 30 or so employees have a foreign background.

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Collecting data on status S and the Swiss labour market

SEM commissioned the Bern University of Applied Sciences (BFH) in summer 2022 to collect labour market-relevant data from 8,000 people with protection status S. The survey was carried out over the course of four weeks in September and October, focusing on people aged 16 to 59 who had sought protection. It was comprised of approximately 30 questions divided into four main areas: current professional situation, language skills and education, mobility and future prospects, and personal and health situation. Conclusions were made based on the answers of the 2,000 people who completed the survey.

Around 40% have good English skills, 70% with tertiary-level education

According to their self-assessments, around 40% of people who sought protection in Switzerland have English skills which are good or very good. Here, those under 40 years old have much better language skills than the over-40s. Respondents are also well educated. Almost 95% stated that they had a post-secondary education, while 70% had completed a tertiary-level qualification. The most common occupational sectors were business, administration and law, along with engineering, manufacturing and construction. These results confirm the data that SEM had already received from people seeking protection when they registered on the RegisterMe online platform.

Most people who sought protection would like to work more

The BFH survey also provides a deeper insight into respondents’ professional situation, with 36% saying that they were looking for work and another 36% interested in working. In addition, 27% of respondents had participated in occupational programmes or training and 15% were gainfully employed in Switzerland. Three quarters of those surveyed who were in employment would like to work more. Here it was possible to give more than one answer.