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  • Writer's pictureMarc Primo

How Ukrainians continue to make a living during wartime

This is an article ‘How Ukrainians continue to make a living during wartime’ by Marc Primo

Before the war broke out in Ukraine upon Russia's invasion on February 24, most businesses were running differently than how they do today. With the ongoing conflict, most of those who operate a business had to adjust to the real world brought by war to make ends meet, aside from fighting to survive the uncertainty of attacks. All over Ukraine, companies are now making a living by making war a part of their businesses.

A local fashion company south of the country in the city of Odessa, such businesses that used to produce lingerie and tailors are now making textile vests to complement the soldiers' body armor plates. Other entrepreneurs made a pilgrimage to the safer grounds of Lviv in Western Ukraine and got involved in producing military supplies, including uniforms, ammunition, and even parts for war vehicles. If there's one thing that most businesses know from the war, there's undoubtedly a cash flow in how they are determined to help the government fight the invading Russians.

For country and profit

According to officials from Ukraine's chamber of commerce, a good percentage of Ukraine businesses have adapted to the production of wartime needs. These businesses have reinvented themselves as entities that support the fight in whatever capacity they can extend to the military. From the production of armaments to tech, everyone contributes to the government's cause by supporting its army. However, for those not inclined to contribute to army supplies, such businesses extend charitable donations while continuing a create-for-profit structure to keep themselves afloat during, perhaps, post-conflict.

The current business model seems logical to most businesses considering the colossal disruption caused by the war. Take, for example, one company that used to make hotel uniforms and is now producing army outfits. There is a need to adapt to what is currently in demand to keep the workforce going and the profits plausible. At war, the United Nations Labor Agency reported that Ukraine had already lost an estimated 4.8 million jobs as of midyear 2022. Most business owners continue to motivate their employees to stay and fight for the country by ensuring they have secured employment and the economy is still healthy.

For some companies like Gregory Textile, the war helped expand the business rather than pose immense challenges. The Lviv-based uniform company was able to save the jobs of 40 employees while adding another 10 to meet demands for regimental outfits. Despite only earning 60% of what the company used to earn, it can still reflect positive margins for profit due to demand.

Reinventing businesses

If anything, most Ukrainians are busier now, given their dedication and motivation to fight for their country's freedom. Most businesses that are still operational have turned into partners for military missions that include smuggling vacuum kilns that would expedite the production of ceramic-plated body armor for fighting soldiers and enlisted civilians. Typically, wartime body armor should be strong enough to be bulletproof and come with rigid armored plates from the front and back of each vest.

Local scientists, most of whom were veterans from previous wars, also helped develop these ceramic types of military armor, which are much lighter than the typical metal vest, help soldiers with their mobility on the battlefield, and are equally safer than standard vests. Today, that company aims to push the production to 800,000 units at $250 apiece, more than half of what the typical armor would cost.

Aside from helping the Ukrainian armed forces fight on the battlefield, these businesses are also keeping the country's economy viable, with some looking to expand their businesses abroad.

Surviving the ripple effects

Current figures show that approximately 2.75 million refugees who have fled the country are of working age. Of this number, a little over a million used to hold regular jobs before the war. Despite the government's efforts to persuade women and children to stay in the country via its national social protection system, such payment benefits caused through digital technologies have already forced around 5.2 million to seek safety in neighboring countries.

However, Ukraine is not the only country disrupted by the war in terms of economy. Nearby states, including Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia, are also struggling with their labor markets due to the influx of refugees forced into exile for the long term.

Unemployment rates are also increasing in Central Asia and regions that rely on remittances from Russia. These countries would typically include Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Unless Russian sanctions and the war on Ukraine persists, migrants who are currently in Russia stand to lose their jobs and be forced to return to their native countries.

Russia's provocation has disrupted the global economy enough, and more countries have been hard-pressed since the COVID-19 pandemic was still in full swing when it started. Employment hurdles are not exclusive to Ukraine and Russia but have triggered a ripple effect across the globe.

Working with war

As the war continues and grows worse, wage growth and social systems worldwide need to be adjusted accordingly to uncertain economic trends. Even high-income countries might lose some gains despite an ephemeral market recovery. Of course, low to middle-class economies might find it more difficult to fully recover in terms of employment and their overall gross domestic product (GDP) in the foreseeable future.

As the UN continues to monitor the war's effect on Ukraine's economy, a $115 million plan to provide more viable livelihood opportunities, particularly to workers in the agricultural sector, is being reviewed for implementation. Such initiatives will help provide basic food necessities for the farmers' families.

As resolutions and calls for Russia to withdraw its aggression in Ukraine continue, mitigating measures to address the workers' and businesses' welfare through government programs are being established in the safer parts of the country. These programs aim to provide civilians with targeted employment and relocation of workers or businesses as necessary. Supported by staunch humanitarian support internationally, Ukrainian workers and companies are being ensured by the government that they are pushing for business as usual–as best they can.


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