Will Ukraine Become a Giant Moldova?

From my office in Kyiv’s Golden Gate neighborhood, I see two notaries and three English schools. The notaries represent a faux legalism in a country where judicial decisions go to highest bidders. The English schools offer a ticket out.

In one generation, since independence in 1991, Ukraine’s population has fallen by 23 percent—from 52 million to 40 million today. For post-independence political elites, that is a failing grade.
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Without a red tape slashing revolution, Ukraine will become a big Moldova—a bedroom country for migrant workers building the dynamic economies of eastern Europe. While Ukraine’s bureaucrats cling to business as usual, Poland offers free mobile roaming for Ukrainians, Polish cities sell bus tickets in Ukrainian, and Polish farmers offer summer jobs with cheery Facebook pages, such as: “Pick Strawberries in Poland!” Ukrainians can easily make four times more in neighboring Poland, and they are. More ominous for the 2020s, Germany’s Bundestag is preparing a labor liberalization law designed to meet its growing labor shortage by allowing Ukrainians to work in Germany on short-term contracts. Here in Kyiv, German social scientist Andreas Umland and his Nuremberg colleague Andrej Novak make an eminently sensible proposal: reverse the flow. With Ukraine’s low cost of living, high-quality private health care, and proximity to the EU, Ukraine could attract European retirees to move here.