A recent survey on Ukrainians’ attitudes towards a Ukrainian NATO membership shows that 89 percent would support joining the military alliance in a referendum – the highest level of support in the country’s history. Moreover, the convergence of membership attitudes between Western and Eastern regions in Ukraine displays a real loss of trust in Eurasian (pro-Russian) relations as a vector of development for Ukraine. This brief offers some perspectives on how public opinion has changed and what have been the crucial turning points. In particular, the brief digs deeper into the evolution of opinion against a NATO membership, as well as regional differences in attitudes. It also shows how every round of Russian aggression eventually has led to public opinion alignment. These changes not only concern a NATO membership but reflect a deeper transformation of societal values and a consolidation of the Ukrainian national identity, strengthening the grounds for a more democratic society.
The continued Russian aggression on Ukraine has disclosed several deep-running issues that have for long been undercurrents in Ukraine’s history and whose resolution is a key determinant of the country’s future. One such issue is the relationship with NATO, including a potential accession into the alliance.
The most recent survey on Ukrainians’ attitudes towards Ukrainian NATO membership, conducted in May-June 2023, shows that 89 percent of the respondents would support it in a referendum, 8 percent would not, while 3 percent of the respondents found it difficult to say (KIIS, 2023). The survey (which excludes occupied territories where it was unfeasible to conduct the survey) also shows the lowest ever gap in terms of geographic spread. 93 percent were in favour of membership in the Western regions and 79 percent in the Eastern regions, the traditionally pro-Russian areas where most of the Russian ethnic minority resides. In comparison, in 2017, 71 percent were in support of a NATO membership in the Western regions and 32 percent in the Eastern regions, respectively (Kermach, 2017).
NATO Membership Support in Ukraine Over Time
To gain a deeper understanding of how the public’s opinion on a NATO membership has changed over time, it is suitable to start in 2002, when former President Leonid Kuchma first announced Ukraine’s aspiration to join NATO. At that point the Ukrainian society could be almost equally divided into three categories; those in favour of joining NATO, those against it, and those who refused to take a stance/found it difficult to say/would not vote in a referendum (hereafter referred to as “indecisive respondents”), depicted in Figure 1. This was a very natural consequence of the late 1990s/early 2000s coexisting positive attitudes to both geopolitical directions – towards NATO and the EU, but also towards Eurasian integration.
Figure 1. Attitudes to joining NATO among Ukrainians, 2002-2023.
One framework for understanding this is the concept of social ambivalence, which has been highlighted as very typical for transitional societies such as Ukraine. For example, Reznik (2022) argues that, in the case of Ukraine the main reason for ambivalent geopolitical orientation is the need for “ideological ‘reconciliation’ of two civilizational directions different in essence and meaning within an unbalanced identity” (Reznik, 2022). Similarly, Golovakha and Panina (2003) suggest that in Ukraine, society simultaneously accepts the old social institutions, which have lost their legality during the transition times but have remained legitimate in the view of the public, and the new social institutions, which have gained legal recognition but have not yet been accepted by society. Ukraine is not unique in this context, similar processes have occurred in many transition countries, for instance in Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and others (see, for instance, Roland, 2000; Murrell, 2003; Gruszewska, 2014; and Becker, 2019). This literature documents a mismatch between old and new institutional structures in transforming countries, strongly associated with low levels of trust in society, resistance to new ideas, strong attachment to traditional behaviors and low social activity levels within society. However, such discordance can change drastically due to shocks facing a society, as illustrated by the change in attitudes towards a NATO membership in Ukraine from the early 2000s and onwards.
In the first decade of the 21st century the Ukrainian society gradually became more aligned against joining NATO. This process intensified after 2010, when Viktor Yanukovych was elected as the President of Ukraine. Soon after the election, the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian Parliament) adopted the law “On the Principles of Internal and Foreign Policy”, establishing the principle of “non-alignment” (Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, 2010). This implied a Ukrainian commitment not to participate in any military political alliances, including NATO. This decision, alongside successful efforts from pro-Russian authorities in the Eastern regions – including anti-NATO propaganda – resulted in as low as 18 percent support for NATO membership in 2013, and 67 percent of the respondents stating to be against a membership (see Figure 1). Such anti-NATO sentiments can be argued to not only have prepared the grounds for, but also to have been explicitly used as an argument for the Russian aggression in 2014.
However, the illegal annexation of Crimea and the Russian aggression in Donbas in 2014 drastically changed the public’s opinion on the military alliance, increasing the share of NATO membership supporters to close to half of the population and thus exceeding the share of opposing or indecisive respondents for the first time in history. At that point 47,8 percent of Ukrainians were in favor of joining the alliance and 32,4 percent were against it (“30 Years of Independence”, 2021), and in 2014 the “non-alignment” principle was officially repealed. It was even officially stated in the Comment On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On Principles of Internal and Foreign Policy”) that the policy had been a decisive factor for the Russian aggression in 2014: “In view of this, the further continuation of the so-called non-alignment policy, which has already led to the loss of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, is contrary to national interests, poses a constant threat to Ukraine’s state sovereignty and territorial integrity, holds back the processes of socio-political and economic reform of the country, and limits Ukraine’s prospects to become a developed European democratic country within the European Union.” (Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, 2014).
Changes in public opinion in Ukraine is however not only limited to NATO membership attitudes. Naturally, there have been changes in election outcomes and voting patterns as well. Recently, Munroe et al. (2023) found a significant shift in voting patterns in Ukraine after 2014, reporting a dramatic decline in pro-Russian votes in Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk and Odessa regions that had all traditionally been pro-Russian. Still, about one third of the respondents were continuously negative towards NATO until 2021, when the share of those in opposition of a NATO membership dropped to 24 percent. Potential explanations for the pertaining negative attitudes include a remaining influence from pro-Russian authorities in the Eastern and Southern parts of the country, along with a lack of knowledge and awareness about NATO among the population.
Motives, Regional Variations, and Information Gaps
In this context, it is essential to highlight the Ukrainian’s motives for support, or scepticism towards NATO membership. A nation-wide survey from 2017 shows that among the majority of NATO supporters in Ukraine the dominant motive was the expectation of “security guarantees for Ukraine” (86 percent). On the contrary, those who did not support joining the alliance expressed concerns that a NATO membership might “draw Ukraine into NATO’s military actions” (44 percent) or “provoke Russia to direct military aggression” (28 percent). 27 percent were convinced that “Ukraine, in principle, should be a non-aligned state” (27 percent), and finally, 22 percent were worried that “foreigners and foreign capital will start to rule in Ukraine” (DIF, 2017).
Stereotypes of NATO as either protection or conversely, a threat, for Ukraine are subject to significant regional differences. While in Western and Central Ukraine the perception of NATO as protection clearly prevailed (81 and 68 percent, respectively), attitudes in the Southern and Eastern parts were more uncertain. About the same number of respondents (19 percent) considered NATO as both protection and a threat, while 25 percent of the respondents in the South and 30 percent in Eastern Ukraine didn’t see NATO as either.
The basis for these opinions is most likely a lack of effective information and a lack of understanding of the alliance, as well as the complex geopolitical dynamics involving it. Research has attributed negative attitudes towards NATO to surviving Cold War stereotypes and a lack of information concerning NATO’s specifics, functions, decision-making procedures, and the rights and obligations of member states (Kermach, 2017).
In the 2017 survey, almost every other Ukrainian admitted that they were not well informed about NATO. Only 55 percent of the respondents claimed to “know something about NATO”, while 22 percent said they knew virtually nothing about it. However, a majority of Ukrainians (55 percent) “would like to know more” about NATO, while about a third (36 percent) of the respondents did not express such interest (see Table 1). Also in this regard, regional differences are remarkable. In Western and Central Ukraine, interest in NATO was much higher in 2017 than in the Eastern and Southern parts of the country.
Table 1. Interest in knowing more about NATO among Ukrainians in 2017.
Public Opinion Consolidation
The most drastic change in attitudes towards a NATO membership has however occurred after the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, with the public almost converging in their support of a NATO membership. The ongoing share of NATO supporters exceeds 85 percent, and the increase in this group draws, to an almost equal extent, both from the number of those who previously were against the alliance and those who were previously indecisive. For the majority of those who consistently considered the “non-alignment” policy of Ukraine as optimal (26,6 percent according to Kermach (2017)), it has become obvious that this “non-alignment” strategy has failed to provide effective security guarantees.
Moreover, the perception of a NATO membership as a security guarantee is also changing. In the 2022 Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) survey, just below 40 percent of the respondents considered a NATO membership as the ultimate and only security guarantee, while approximately the same number were willing to accept other security guarantees. In the 2023 survey, the share of the former response category increased to 58 percent (with a slight difference within regions – 64 percent in the West and 48 percent in Eastern Ukraine), – while the latter dropped to 25 percent. Furthermore, 76 percent were not willing to accept forgoing a NATO membership as a condition for peace (KIIS, 2023).
Public opinion in Ukraine, including attitudes towards a NATO membership, has been drastically affected by the Russian aggression in 2014, and even more so by the ongoing war. As survey results show, each subsequent round of Russian aggression on Ukraine has only increased the share of NATO membership supporters and decreased the number of respondents indecisive on whether Ukraine should join NATO. Additionally, regional differences in attitudes between the Eastern and Western parts of Ukraine have also smoothened. These changes imply a deep transformation in societal views, where the meaning of living in peace for Ukrainians has transformed from the idea of “non-alignment” into perceiving a NATO membership as a security guarantee and a prerequisite for future peace.
While the transformation of public opinion is important per se, it is only one example of the groundbreaking changes the Ukrainian society has especially undertaken since the invasion in 2022. The necessity to fight the Russian invasion brought about unprecedented consolidation and feelings of a national identity. This, in turn, provides an essential foundation for building trust and active political participation, strengthening the grounds for an effective democratic society.
- Becker, T. (2019). Liberal Democracy in Transition – The First 30 Years. FREE Policy Brief. https://freepolicybriefs.org/2019/10/28/liberal-democracy-in-transition-the-first-30-years/
- Golovakha, Y. and Panina, N. (2003). Post-Soviet Deinstitutionalization and Formation of New Social Institutions in Ukraine. Ukrainian Sociological Review 2000-2001. Y. Golovakha (eds.). Kiev: Institute of Sociology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. https://nbn-resolving.org/urn:nbn:de:0168-ssoar-104184
- Gruszewska, E. (2014). Changes in Informal Institutions in Poland and Transition Countries. Equilibrium. 9(39). http://dx.doi.org/10.12775/EQUIL.2014.003
- Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation (DIF). (2017, July 5). Public opinion in Ukraine about NATO Opinion poll. https://dif.org.ua/en/article/gromadska-dumka-naselennya-ukraini-pro-nato
- Kermach, R. (2017). Attitudes of Ukrainians towards NATO: current trends, hidden motivations and tasks for the future. Public opinion, #30. https://dif.org.ua/uploads/pdf/2100498524644fee8972a303.37036874.pdf
- Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS). (2023, July 10). Attitude Towards Ukraine’s Accession to NATO and Security Guarantees. Survey Press Release. https://www.kiis.com.ua/?lang=eng&cat=reports&id=1258&page=1
- Murrell, P. (2003). The relative levels and the character of institutional development in transition economies. Political Economy of Transition and Development: Institutions, Politics and Policies. N. Campos and J. Fidrmuc (eds.). Boston, Dordrecht and London: Kluwer.
- Munroe, E., Nosach, A., Pedrozo, M., Guarnieri, E., Riaño, J.F., Tur-Prats, A. and Caicedo, F.V. (2023). The legacies of war for Ukraine. Economic Policy. eiad001. https://doi.org/10.1093/epolic/eiad001
- Reznik, O. (2022). Ukrainians’ European Integration Aspirations: from Ambivalence to Expression. Policy Paper. https://dif.org.ua/en/article/ukrainians-european-integration-aspirations-from-ambivalence-to-expression
- Roland, G. (2000). Transition and Economics: Politics, Markets, and Firms. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- Sociological Group “Rating” (Rating Group). (2023, March 23). National Survey of Ukraine (IRI): February 2023. https://ratinggroup.ua/en/research/ukraine/national_survey_of_ukraine_iri_february_2023.html
- 30 Years of Independence: How Ukrainians’ Attitudes to NATO Membership Have Changed (2021, August 24). Slovo I Dilo. https://www.slovoidilo.ua/2021/08/24/infografika/suspilstvo/30-rokiv-nezalezhnosti-yak-zminyuvalosya-stavlennya-ukrayincziv-chlenstva-nato
- Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (Parliament of Ukraine). (2010, July 1). On the Principles of Internal and Foreign Policy. Law of Ukraine No. 2411-VI. https://ips.ligazakon.net/document/t102411?an=&ed=2014_03_27&dtm=&le=
- Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (Parliament of Ukraine). (2014, June 2). Comment On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On Principles of Internal and Foreign Policy” (Regarding Renunciation of Non-Aligned Status). Law of Ukraine No. 4982. https://ips.ligazakon.net/document/LG3UE00A?an=2
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in policy briefs and other publications are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the FREE Network and its research institutes.
The 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine has forced millions to flee from the war zone. This brief addresses Ukrainian refuge in Poland. It provides an overview of the current situation, discusses the ongoing solutions and potential future challenges, and stresses the key areas for urgent policy intervention. It is based on a presentation held at the FREE Network webinar Fleeing the war zone: Will open hearts be enough?, which took place on March 14, 2022. The full webinar can be seen here.
The latest data (from March 15, 2022) shows that since February 24, 1.8 million refugees have already crossed the Polish-Ukrainian border. This number represents over 60 percent of Ukrainians who have fled the country thus far. Among this group that relocated to Poland, approximately 97 percent were people with Ukrainian citizenship. Most of the foreign nationals living in Ukraine before the war, and who came to Poland after its outbreak, have already returned to their countries of origin.
Figure 1. The influx of refugees from Ukraine to Poland since February 24, 2022.
Our estimates show that there are currently about 1.1 million Ukrainian war refugees in Poland. Many stay in large cities such as Warsaw, Kraków or Wrocław. The rest of those who crossed the Polish border transited to the other EU Member States or countries outside of Europe, such as Canada or the USA, reuniting with their families and friends.
In the first days after the outbreak of the war, refugee assistance in Poland was mostly provided by Polish families and households, as well as owners of guesthouses and hotels who made them available for the purpose of providing accommodation.
A similar situation took place at the border and at railway and bus stations where refugees were arriving, with a majority of support coming from volunteering citizens. This assistance largely consisted of the provision of basic necessities such as food, hygiene products, and medical or psychological first aid. The level of mobilization among non-governmental organizations, grass-roots initiatives, private citizens, and civil society, in general, is extremely commendable and should be accredited with providing the safe welcome refugees received upon arrival. For example, during the first days, Polish families sheltered several hundred thousand refugees, often in their own houses or apartments. There are currently two main Ukrainian social groups arriving in Poland: women with children and older persons over the age of 60. This is a result of Ukraine’s internal regulations, which prohibit men aged between 18 and 60 from leaving the country.
Among those who have managed to escape the war, there is a large group of people requiring very specialized support, e.g. children suffering from oncological diseases, and elderly with a high degree of disability. So far, these groups have been provided with the necessary support, but if these needs become more frequent, a review of the capacity of the Polish healthcare system and the system of support for the disabled will be needed.
In the first days after the war broke out, the situation at the border was very difficult. The waiting time for crossing reached up to 70 hours. However, this was related to problems with the information system and the limited number of border guards on the Ukrainian side. Currently, crossing the border is quick and seamless. Every day the Polish Border Police register 80 to 100 thousand individuals, a vast majority of them crossing into Poland. This is a many-fold increase compared to pre-war migration flows, which fluctuated around 12-15 thousand people per day. At the same time, over 80.000 people, mainly men, have crossed the Polish border to Ukraine in the last 20 days with the goal of joining the army or territorial defense.
For a long time, the Polish government held the position that there would be no need to build refugee centers. However, the government recently reversed this decision and decided to open a dozen centers, located in market and sports halls. Currently, over 100,000 people are staying in these types of temporary accommodation facilities. However, these centers are not sufficiently adapted for stays longer than a few days. It is necessary to prepare housing infrastructure (temporary accommodation centers equipped with habitable containers) in which refugees can stay for two or three months until they find another place to live.
So far, Poland has essentially dealt with two of three possible migratory waves. In the first, people with family members or friends living in Poland or in other EU Member States arrived. Before the war, there were already approximately 800 thousand Ukrainians working or studying in Poland. In the second wave, after the bombing of civilian facilities in large cities, people without family or friends living in Poland started arriving. They require full assistance. A third wave is possible, and this one may be much larger than the previous two. It may occur if the situation at the front worsens and the repressions by Russian troops become harsher. Such reports are already coming from eastern Ukraine. If the situation worsens, Poland could even face a couple of additional million people that would leave Ukraine. Under these circumstances, we should assume that the third wave would include young men in addition to women, children, and the elderly. This scenario is currently very unlikely, but cannot be completely ruled out.
Since the beginning of March, Poland has seen an increase in the activity of both local representatives of the government administration and the central government. Information has been gathered about vacancies in smaller cities and local communities where refugees could be accommodated. This is because large cities are on the verge of reaching their capacity for the number of refugees they are able to manage. In addition, a special law entered into force on March 13, which provides for a catalogue of support tools for refugees. The main issues are:
1. The possibility of obtaining an individual identification number, which will enable the opening of a bank account and grant access to the labor market, education, and social benefits. It will be possible to apply for the ID number from March 16. Certainly, large queues can be expected in the first days, as the procedure is complicated and rather bureaucratic. The government decided to require all the necessary information at the start of the application process, which could be complicated for some applicants and lead to additional delays. Based on recent numbers, up to 1 million Ukrainians may apply for an individual identification number in the near future.
2. Reimbursement of the costs of hosting refugees from Ukraine in Polish family homes and in private hotels. The government has agreed to cover the value of around 8 euros per day for each person. However, receiving this refund requires submitting a special application to the local administration offices, which may again cause various kinds of perturbations, and even resignation from obtaining such support.
3. Ukrainian children can be enrolled in Polish schools. It will also be possible to open school branches in temporary accommodation centers, as well as parallel Ukrainian classes inside Polish schools. At present, however, the preferred model is the inclusion of Ukrainian children in Polish classrooms. Currently, no major problems have been reported with this process, but only around 10% of Ukrainian children have entered Polish schools so far. Numerous challenges connected with this integration process are expected. Part of the solution could be distance learning or hybrid learning. The priority is to involve children in education as fast as possible so that they do not lose time while living in Poland from an educational development point of view.
4. A simplified system of qualifications recognition has been implemented for nurses and doctors. Unfortunately, contrary to the advice of experts, the act does not provide guidelines for a simplified qualification recognition of teachers, educators or psychologists from Ukraine. In his media statements, the Minister of Education and Science did not rule out introducing a simplified procedure in the near future. Such recognition could, to some extent, solve the problem of understaffing in Polish schools.
5. All adults from Ukraine who arrived after February 24 have open access to the labor market.
Until early March, the Polish government did not apply for support from other EU member states. Now, this position has changed. Over the first weekend of March alone, more than 20 trains were organized that made it possible for refugees interested in moving from Poland to countries such as Germany or other destinations within the EU. Additional relocation measures are expected in the near future. However, in contrast to the European migrant crisis in 2015, the relocation scheme of Ukrainian refugees is carried out on a voluntary, rather than a compulsory basis.
It is very difficult to predict what will happen in the next days or weeks. While it should be emphasized that Poland is managing the migration challenge well, this is not least due to the exceptional commitment of civil society. Certainly, in the coming months, Poland will not be able to cope with the integration of more than 800.000 people into the labor market and education system. Of course, it is possible to provide ad-hoc support, but that is completely different than integrating refugees into Polish society. Ukrainians are still treated as guests who are expected to return to their homes when possible. Such an assumption should not be changed until May when the situation in Ukraine will be more predictable. We must also be aware that we are dealing with dispersed families who will want to reunite as soon as possible. It is not known, however, whether this will take place in Poland or in Ukraine. It depends on how the situation develops in the weeks and months to come.
In the coming weeks, the key issue will be the relocation of Ukrainian refugees from large to smaller cities within not only Poland but also the European Union. It is absolutely necessary to coordinate activities both at the level of the Polish government and the European Commission. As far as the Polish government is concerned, a task force should be established to maintain constant contact with the European Commission and the EU Member States regarding the ability to relocate refugees from Poland to other countries. This team should be composed mainly of civil servants from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior. It is also necessary to appoint a team coordinating the actions of voivodes, who are responsible for crisis management in accordance with Polish law. It is also critical to ensure the flow of information between local administrations and the government, as well as to coordinate the activities of non-governmental organizations, whose activity is key in dealing with the challenges related to the migration crisis. In the next stages, it will be necessary to adopt a systemic approach to the inclusion of Ukrainian children in the education system (Polish and Ukrainian, but functioning in Poland – remote learning), and adult refugees to the labor market.
In the end, I would like to recall my opinion, which is now popular in the media and among representatives of the central government, local governments and non-governmental organizations: “Helping refugees and managing migration crises is a marathon, not a sprint.” We must keep this in mind.
The annexation of Crimea has real costs to the Russian economy beyond what is measured by some items in the armed forces’ budget; social spending in the occupied territories; or the cost of building a rather extreme bridge to solve logistics issues. Russia’s real cost of the annexation of Crimea is also associated with the permanent loss of income that the entire Russian population is experiencing due to increased uncertainty, reduced capital flows and investment, and thus a growth rate that is significantly lower than it would have been otherwise. Since the years of lost growth are extremely hard to make up for in later years, there will be a permanent loss of income in Russia that is a significant part of the real cost of annexing Crimea and continuing the fighting in Eastern Ukraine. It is time to stop not only the human bleeding associated with Ukraine, but also the economic.
Estimating the real cost of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the continued involvement in Eastern Ukraine is complicated since there are many other things going on in the Russian economy at the same time. In particular, oil prices fell from over $100/barrel in late 2013 to $30/barrel in 2016 (Figure 1). Becker (2016) has shown that 60-80 percent of the variation in GDP growth can be explained by changes in oil prices, so this makes it hard to just look at actual data on growth to assess the impact of Crimea and subsequent sanctions and counter sanctions.
Figure 1. Russian GDP and oil price
Source: Becker (2019)
The approach here is instead to focus on one channel that is likely to be important for growth in these circumstances, which is uncertainty and its impact on capital flows and investment.
From uncertainty to growth
The analysis presented here is based on several steps that link uncertainty to GDP growth. All the details of the steps in this analysis are explained at some length in Becker (2019). Although this brief will focus on the main assumptions and estimates that are needed to arrive at the real cost of Crimea, a short description of the steps is as follows.
First of all, in line with basic models of capital flows, investors that can move their money across different markets (here countries) will look at relative returns and volatility between different markets. When relative uncertainty goes up in one market, capital will leave that market.
The next step is that international capital flows affect investment in the domestic market. If capital leaves a country, less money will be available for fixed capital investments.
The final step is that domestic investments is important for growth. Mechanically, in a static, national accounts setting, if investments go down, so does GDP. More long term and dynamically, investments have a supply side effect on growth, and if investments are low, this will affect potential as well as actual growth negatively.
These steps are rather straightforward and saying that uncertainty created by the annexation of Crimea leads to lower growth is trivial. What is not trivial is to provide an actual number on how much growth may have been affected. This requires estimates of a number of coefficients that is the empirical counterparts to the theoretical steps outlined here.
Estimates to link uncertainty to growth
In short, we need three coefficients that link: domestic investments to growth; capital flows to domestic investments; and uncertainty to capital flows.
There are many studies that look at the determinants of growth, so there are plenty of estimates on the first of these coefficients. Here we will use the estimate of Levine and Renelt (1992), that focus on finding robust determinants of growth from a large set of potential explanatory variables. In their preferred specification, growth is explained well by four variables, initial income, population growth, secondary education and the investments to GDP ratio. The coefficient on the latter is 17.5, which means that when the investment to GDP ratio increases by 10 percentage points, GDP grows an extra 1.75 percentage points per year. Becker and Olofsgård (2018) have shown that this model explains the growth experience of 25 transition countries including Russia since 2000 very well, which makes this estimate relevant for the current calculation.
The next coefficient links capital flows to domestic investments. This is also a subject that has been studied in many empirical papers. Recent estimates for transition countries and Russia in Mileva (2008) and Becker (2019) find an effect of FDI on domestic investments that is larger than one, i.e., there are positive spillovers from FDI inflows to domestic investments. Here we will use the estimate from Becker (2019) that finds that 10 extra dollars of FDI inflows are associated with an increase of domestic investments of 15 dollars.
Finally, we need an estimate linking uncertainty with capital flows. There are many studies looking at risk, return and investment in general, and also several studies focusing on international capital flows and uncertainty. Julio and Yook (2016) look at how political uncertainty around elections affect FDI of US firms and find that FDI to countries with high institutional quality is less affected by electoral uncertainty than others. Becker (2019) estimates how volatility in the Russian stock market index RTS relative to the volatility in the US market’s S&P 500 is associated with net private capital outflows. The estimate suggests that when volatility in the RTS goes up by one standard deviation, this is associated with net private capital outflows of $30 billion.
These estimates now only need one more thing to allow us to estimate how much Crimean uncertainty has impacted growth and this is a measure of the volatility that was created by the annexation of Crimea.
Measuring Crimean uncertainty
In Becker (2019), the measure of volatility that is used in the regression with net capital outflows is the 60-day volatility of the RTS index. Since we now want to isolate the uncertainty created by Crimea related events, we need to take out the volatility that can be explained by other factors in order to arrive at a volatility measure that captures Crimean induced uncertainty. In Becker (2019) this is done by running a regression of RTS volatility on the volatility of international oil prices and the US stock market as represented by the S&P 500. The residual that remains after this regression is the excess volatility of the RTS that cannot be explained by these two external factors. The excess volatility of the RTS index is shown in figure 2.
It is clear that the major peaks in excess volatility are linked to Crimea related events, and in particular to the sanctions introduced at various points in time. From March 2014 to March 2015, there is an average excess volatility of 0.73 standard deviations with a peak of almost 4 when the EU and the USA ban trade with Crimea. This excess volatility is our measure of the uncertainty created by the annexation of Crimea.
Figure 2. RTS excess volatility
Source: Becker (2019)
From Crimean uncertainty to growth
The final step is simply to use our measure of Crimean induced uncertainty together with the estimates that link uncertainty in general to growth.
The estimated excess volatility associated with Crimea is conservatively estimated at 0.7 standard deviations. Using this with the estimate that increasing volatility by one standard deviation is associated with $30 billion in capital outflows, we get that the Crimean uncertainty would lead to $21 billions of capital outflows in one quarter or $84 billions in one year. If this is in the form of reduced FDI flows, we have estimated that this means that domestic investments would fall by a factor of 1.5 or $126 billions.
In this period, Russia had a GDP of $1849bn and fixed capital investments of $392bn. This means that $126 billions in reduced investments correspond to a reduction in the investments to GDP ratio of 7 percentage points (or that the investments to GDP ratio goes from around 21 percent to 14 percent).
Finally, using the estimate of 17.5 from Levine and Renelt, this implies that GDP growth would have been 1.2 percentage points higher without the estimated decline in investments to GDP.
In other words, the Crimean induced uncertainty is estimated to have led to a significant loss of growth that has to be added to all the other costs of the annexation of Crimea and continued fighting in Eastern Ukraine. Note that recent growth in Russia has been just barely above 1 percent per year, so this means that growth has been cut in half by this self-generated uncertainty.
Of course, the 1.2 percentage point estimate of lost growth is based on many model assumptions, but it provides a more sensible estimate of the cost of Crimea than we can get by looking at actual data that is a mix of many other factors that have impacted capital flows, investments and growth over this period.
The annexation of Crimea and continued fighting in Eastern Ukraine carry great costs in terms of human suffering. In addition, they also carry real costs to the Russian economy. Not least to people in Russia that see that their incomes are not growing in line with other countries in the world while the value of their rubles has been cut in half. Some of this is due to falling oil prices and other global factors that require reforms that will reorient the economy from natural resource extraction to a more diversified base of income generation. This process will take time even in the best of worlds.
However, one “reform” that can be implemented over night is to stop the fighting in Eastern Ukraine and work with Ukraine and other parties to get out of the current situation of sanctions and counter-sanctions. This would provide a much-needed boost to foreign and domestic investments required to generate high, sustainable growth to the benefit of many Russians as well as neighboring countries looking for a strong economy to do trade and business with.
- Becker, T, (2019), “Russia’s macroeconomy—a closer look at growth, investment, and uncertainty”, forthcoming SITE Working paper.
- Becker, T. and A. Olofsgård, (2018), “From abnormal to normal—Two tales of growth from 25 years of transition”, Economics of Transition, vol. 26, issue 4.
- Becker, T. (2016), “Russia and Oil – Out of Control”, FREE policy brief, October.
- Julio, B. and Yook, Y. (2016), ‘Policy uncertainty, irreversibility, and cross-border flows of capital’, Journal of International Economics, Vol. 103, pp. 13-26.
- Levine, R. and Renelt, D. (1992). ‘A Sensitivity Analysis of Cross-Country Growth Regressions’, American Economic Review, 82(4), pp. 942–963.
- Mileva, E. (2008), ‘The Impact of Capital Flows on Domestic Investment in Transition Economies, ECB Working Paper No. 871, February.
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in policy briefs and other publications are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the FREE Network and its research institutes.
This brief is based on research that investigates the probability of employment among displaced and non-displaced households in a region bordering territory with an ongoing military conflict in Eastern Ukraine. According to the results, internally displaced persons (IDP) are more educated, younger and more active in their job search than locals. Nevertheless, displaced individuals, particularly males, have experienced heavy discrimination. After controlling for personal characteristics, the structure of the household, location, non-labour incomes and endogeneity of displacement, IDP males are 17% less likely to be formally employed two years after resettlement than locals.
Internally displaced persons in Ukraine
In 2014, 23 years after independence, Ukraine suddenly found itself among the top-ten of countries with the largest internally displaced population. During the period 2014–2016, 1.8 million persons registered as internally displaced. Potentially, about 1 million more reallocated to Russia and about 100,000 to other countries nearby, where they sought refugee or labour migrant status (Smal, 2016).
The Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine (MSPU) has regularly published very general reports on displaced persons. According to these reports, at the end of February 2016, the internally displaced persons in Ukraine included 22,000 individuals from Crimea and over 1.7 million citizens from Eastern Ukraine. These are mostly individuals who registered as IDPs to qualify for financial assistance from the state and some non-monetary benefits. Among them, 60% are retired people, 23.1% are individuals of working age, 12.8% are children and 4.1% are people with disabilities (Smal and Poznyak, 2017). In fact, the MSPU registers not only displaced persons but also those who de facto live in the occupied territories and occasionally travel to territories controlled by the Ukrainian authorities to receive their pension or social benefits (so called ‘pension tourism’). On the other hand, some IDPs did not register either to avoid bureaucracy or because they were unable to prove their status due to lack of documents. Recent publications that are based on surveys portray a more balanced distribution: 15% are retired people, 58% are individuals of working age, 27% are children and 13% are people with disabilities (IOM and the Ukrainian Centre for Social Reforms, 2018).
Only limited information is available about IDPs’ labour market activity. According to the State Employment Service (SES), between March 2014 and January 2016, only 64,300 IDPs or 3.75% referred to the SES for assistance (Smal and Poznyak, 2017). On the one hand, this figure reflects the relatively low reliance of displaced Ukrainians on the SES services in their job search. On the other hand, the geographical variation in the share of SES applicants suggests that Ukraine’s IDPs who moved further from the war zone and their homes were more active in trying to find a job.
Our primary data were collected in June–August 2016 by REACH and provided by the Ukraine Food Security Cluster (UFSC) as a part of the needs assessment in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts of Ukraine – two regions that were directly affected by the conflict. These two regions have hosted roughly 53% of all IDPs in Ukraine (Smal and Poznyak, 2017). We argue that households that did not move far from the place of conflict are most likely to be driven by conflict only, while long-distance movers may combine economic and forced displacement motives.
The data set offers information on 2500 households interviewed in 233 locations and is statistically representative of the average household in each oblast. It includes respondents currently living in their pre-conflict settlements (non-displaced, NDs) and respondents who report a different place of residence before the conflict (IDPs). The IDP group comprises individuals with registered and unregistered status and from both sides of the current contact line. The non-IDP group includes only households living on the territory controlled by the Ukrainian Government that did not move after the conflict had started.
Our sample covers 1,135 displaced households that came from 131 settlements. Most of the reallocations took place in early summer 2014 with the military escalation of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. Thus, the average duration of displacement up to the moment of the interview was 637 days (or 21 months). This is a sufficiently long period for adaptation and job search. However, there is enough variation in this indicator – some families left as early as March–April 2014, while others were displaced in June 2016, just a few days before the interviews started.
Simple comparison shows that heads of displaced households are on average almost four years younger than those of non-displaced households (Table 1). In terms of education, displaced households are found to be more educated than non-displaced households, as there are significantly more IDP household heads with tertiary education and significantly fewer individuals with only primary, secondary or vocational degrees. In particular, 37% of IDP household heads hold a university degree compared with 22% of household heads among the local population. This seems to suggest positive displacement selection. IDPs are slightly more likely to be headed by females and unmarried persons, although these differences are statistically insignificant. Displaced households include more children aged under five (0.35 vs. 0.22 children per non-displaced household) and 6 to 17 years (0.42 vs. 0.34, respectively) and fewer members aged over 60 years (0.58 vs 0.66, respectively). There is no difference in the number of working-age adults or disabled individuals per household among IDPs and non-IDPs. The average household size is statistically similar for the groups (2.74 vs. 2.65 persons per IDP and non-IDP household, respectively).
Table 1. Selected descriptive statistics
|Internally displaced households||Non- displaced households|
|Household head employed||0.43***||0.48***|
|Household head characteristics|
|Number of children 0-5||0.35***||0.21***|
|Number of children 6-17||0.42***||0.34***|
|Number of members 60+||0.58**||0.66**|
There are further differences in the types of economic activity and occupations among IDPs and non-IDPs. Prior to the conflict, displaced respondents were more likely (than non-displaced persons) to be employed as managers or professionals and less likely to hold positions as factory or skilled agricultural workers. This result also speaks in favor of a positive displacement selection story.
As expected, the conflict has had a negative effect on human capital in the government controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. We observe some deskilling at the time of the interviews, which is especially pronounced for IDPs. In particular, the share of managers among the IDPs had reduced from 12% to 5% and that of technicians from 15% to 12%, while the proportion of service and sales employees had increased from 10% to 13%, that of factory workers from 11% to 15% and that of skilled agricultural workers from 2% to 6%.
Considering the economic activity in the current location, we can note that on average the heads of displaced households are 5% less likely to be employed than those of non-displaced households (43% vs. 48%, respectively). In both groups, a large share of respondents report difficulties in their job search, but IDPs are 13% more likely to experience this problem. They report changing their pre-conflict occupation three times more often than non-IDPs (37% vs. 11%).
Government and non-government assistance may also drive the differences in employment. Economic theory states that individuals are less likely to work if they have some backup in the form of non-labour earnings. Financial support and humanitarian assistance are widely used to smooth a displacement shock. At the same time, improperly designed assistance schemes may reduce the stimulus to search for a job.
IDPs are 9% less likely to include earnings in their household’s top three main sources of income than the non-displaced population (46% vs. 55%, respectively), meaning that they rely more on various social payments and pensions. In addition, displaced households may be slightly more reluctant to search for a job due to displacement assistance from the government (received by 50% of IDPs compared with 0% for non-IDP households), although the amounts are quite modest. According to the existing legislation, IDPs can receive regular monthly state payments and one-time state payments. Regular monthly payments can be received by any IDP and cannot exceed UAH 3,000 (~$111) for an ordinary household, UAH 3,400 for a household with disabled people and UAH 5,000 (~$185) for a household with more than 2 children. Eligibility and the size of the one-time payment are determined by the local government. In the data set, 95% of IDPs receive less than UAH 3,000 while the 2016 average monthly wage was UAH 6,000 in Donetsk and UAH 4,600 in Luhansk regions.
In addition, IDPs are three times more likely to receive humanitarian assistance (78% vs. 28% among displaced and non-displaced persons, respectively). This support includes mostly food and winterisation items but also cash (26% among displaced vs. 12% among non-displaced assistance receivers). On the other hand, to cover reallocation and adaptation costs, some IDPs use their financial reserves, and as a result they are by 10 p.p. more likely to report no or already depleted savings. This may increase their stimulus to engage in a more active job search.
After taking into account the observed and unobserved differences between the groups as well as controlling for the location fixed effect, we find that the difference in the probability of employment between displaced and non-displaced persons increases from a casually observed slit of 5% to a chasm of 17.3%. This result suggests that IDPs are [negatively] discriminated despite being younger, more educated, skilled and more ‘able’ in the labour market. Specifically, 7 out of 17 p.p. (41% of the gap) are due to the variation in observed household head characteristics and family composition, while unobserved displacement-related features (such as attitude towards change, activism, mental and physical ability to reallocate) account for 5 p.p. (29%) of the gap. Controlling for particularities of a current location does not substantially affect the estimated differences.
Figure 1. Main results
We re-estimate these regressions using an employment indicator that includes both formal and informal employment (as defined by the respondents), accounting for occasional and irregular employment, including subsistence agricultural work. Since informal work is more common among IDPs, this definition of employment leads to a reduction in the average casually observed gap from 5% to 3%. However, after controlling for all the factors, we obtain the same result – a 17.8% difference between displaced and non-displaced households.
Policy makers and international donors should not be misled by the seemingly comparable probability of employment among IDPs and non-IDPs based on simple statistics. The average 0–5% difference in unconditional employment rates conceals the actual 17% gap in the likelihood of having a job. The contribution of unobserved displacement-related factors in hiding the true gap is large, especially for males seeking formal employment. Without adjusting for it, we would underestimate the real difference in employment probability by one-third to one-half.
Our study produces firm evidence that displaced individuals in Ukraine, particularly males, have been discriminated against in terms of employment. Our results further suggest that male heads of displaced households experience more discrimination in the formal labour market, while the situation is the opposite for females, who are more likely to face unequal treatment in the informal sector. Policy makers and volunteers should take this difference into account in the adaptation of male- and female-headed households.
Humanitarian assistance to displaced individuals was found to have no negative effect on their employment, which suggests that it is provided in an effective manner. Thus, this tool can be used to mitigate the discrimination.
- IOM and the Ukrainian Centre for Social Reforms. (2018). ’National Monitoring System Report on the Situation of Internally Displaced Persons.’
- Smal, V. and O. Poznyak. (2017) ‘Internally displaced persons: social and economic integration in hosting communities’, PLEDDG Project.
- Smal, V. 2016. ’Внутрішньо Переміщені Особи: Соціальна та економічна інтеграція в приймаючих громадах.’
- Vakhitova, H. and P. Iavorskyi, “Employment of Displaced and Non-displaced Households in Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts”, Europe-Asia studies, (forthcoming).
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