Yuri Kurchenko, a truck driver from Ukraine, has worked in different countries, from Germany to Ireland, but he has now chosen Lithuania, even if he is paid slightly less than he would be in Western Europe.
© DELFI / Mindaugas Ažušilis

"You know, I'm not in my twenties anymore and it's much harder for me to learn a new language, and many people in Lithuania speak Russian," says the 55-old-old man from Mykolaiv, a city in southern Ukraine.

Yuri will join about 9,000 Ukrainians who came to work in Lithuania this year. The number of Ukrainians keeps growing and they already make up more than half of all foreign workers in Lithuania.

Ukrainian economists say that the lack of up-to-date census data and inefficient registration systems make it difficult to study how the directions of labor migration from Ukraine are changing. Some of them say that it appears that Ukrainians much more often choose Poland and the Baltic countries over Russia, which annexed the Crimean Peninsula more than three years ago.

According to experts, some Ukrainians emigrate to Lithuania in search of higher pay as the average net monthly wage in Ukraine amounts to around 250 euros, compared with about 660 euros in Lithuania.

"The level of labor income in Ukraine is much lower than in the Baltic countries. Many Ukrainians choose the Baltic countries because it is easier to find accommodation and jobs there," says Boris Kushniruk, the head of a Ukrainian think-tank.

Analysts say that labor immigration in Lithuania is set to grow because of the country's high emigration rate and a shortage of skilled labor. Critics are concerned, however, that arrival of cheaper labor from Ukraine may hold back wage growth in the country and increase shadow economic activity.

Most Ukrainians in Lithuania work as long-haul truck drivers, builders, ship hull assemblers and welders, thus partially filling the shortage of local workers caused by continuing high emigration of Lithuanians to Britain and Scandinavian countries.

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