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Ukraine wants its women back deputy minister

Kiev is calling for refugees to return home as GDP slid almost 30% last year

Kiev encourages Ukrainian women who have fled the conflict-torn country to come back home, Deputy Economy Minister Tatyana Berezhnaya has said. Her comments came amid warnings that a disproportionate population exodus could have a devastating effect on the nation’s economy.

Speaking in an interview with Bloomberg published on Monday, Berezhnaya said that “for me personally, victory is when Ukrainian families unite in Ukraine, not abroad.” The minister added that Kiev’s priority is “to make everything possible so that women with children come back to their husbands.”

Shortly after Russia sent troops into Ukraine in February 2022, Kiev announced a general mobilization, banning most men aged 18 to 60 from leaving the country. This led to a large gender gap among Ukrainian adult refugees, with at least 70% of them being women, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Ukraine was already struggling with demographics even before the onset of the conflict, with a fertility rate of just 1.16 as of 2021, and the large-scale hostilities have only exacerbated the situation.

According to Alexander Isakov of Bloomberg Economics, if Kiev fails to persuade 2.8 million Ukrainian working-age women to return, it could cost the country 10% of its annual pre-conflict GDP. In the worst-case scenario, Ukraine will lose $20 billion a year, Bloomberg’s analysis claims.

Speaking to the outlet, Oleg Gorokhovsky, chief executive of Ukraine-based Monobank, stressed that women have a disproportionate impact on consumer demand as they are key decision-makers when it comes to buying household items.

“Without them, it will be super hard,” he added, commenting on prospects for the recovery of the Ukrainian economy that saw a 29.1% GDP decline in 2022. In 2023, it is projected to rebound by only 0.5%, according to the World Bank.

In total, according to UN data, more than six million Ukrainian refugees have fled the country, with the majority of them staying in European countries.

Berezhnaya’s comments contrast with the stance of authorities on the issue in the autumn of 2022. At the time, numerous Ukrainian officials urged their fellow citizens not to come back from abroad in winter, citing issues with power generation caused by recurring Russian strikes. Moscow intensified its attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in response to a deadly bombing of the Crimean Bridge in October 2022.


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