Event announcement

For decades now internal migration has been increasing in many countries as people respond to uneven development of different regions, inequitable distributions of resources, social services, lack of working places and other opportunities.

Around the world the changes in the structure of the economy, unemployment, deindustrialization, militarized conflicts, and extreme weather events cause internal migration. According to the UN, internal migration prevails over international migration. However, it is difficult to define the exact number of internal migrants.

In 2009 the UN presented an estimate of 740 million people and this figure presents only a partial picture of internal migration. It’s impacts on regional development are diverse: On the one hand, internal migration has contributed to a rapid growth of some cities. On the other hand, it caused a shrinkage of others.

We invite you to discuss trends, aspects, and motives of internal migration in a context of local development in Ukraine.

What do we know about internal migration in Ukraine? What are the benefits of internal migration for cities? How does internal migration impact regional development? What is the shrinking cities phenomenon and how is it connected with internal migration? How cities can react in their urban planning strategies to the challenges that are connected to internal migration, including social services? Where internal labor migrants work in Ukraine and what are their working conditions?

When? 19th of November, 11:00 a.m. (Kyiv time).

Where? Online, to participate, please register. All registered participants will receive a link via email.

Moderator: Natalia Lomonosova, analyst, Cedos, co-editor of "Politychna Krytyka", doctoral student at Kyiv-Mohyla University.


  • Oleksandra Slobodian, analyst and researcher at Cedos think tank,
  • Pavlo Fedoriv, urban geographer and housing policy analyst at Cedos think tank,
  • Oleg Borisov, Deputy Chairman, Building workers union of Ukraine, expert on employment and internal migration.

Event video

Event summary


  • Oleksandra Slobodian, researcher on the topic of migration;
  • Pavlo Fedoriv, urban geographer, analyst and housing policy expert;
  • Oleg Borysov, deputy head of the Union of Construction and Construction Materials Industry Workers of Ukraine, employment and labor migration expert.

Oleksandra Slobodian:

  • First I would like to focus briefly on the theoretical framework and talk a bit about who we are discussing today. When we discuss domestic migration, we talk about two types of migrants. One is the migrants who commute, that is, who work in one location but live in another, who may travel to work in a different locality or across a certain distance every day or a few times per week. In addition, when we discuss migrants, we talk about another group: the migrants who change their city of residence and live there permanently. When we say “a migrant,” we mean someone who has changed their usual location of residence. We have data on both groups of domestic migrants from the State Statistics Service. It is very important to have government stats specifically, especially when we talk about cities, because we understand that the state of cities differs, local governments have different institutional capacities.
  • As for commuters, the State Statistics Service gives us certain estimates. It conducts a survey of the workforce periodically, and it includes a question about whether someone worked in a different locality than the locality of their residence for a certain period of time. Only 13 percent of people in Ukraine live in a different locality. Out of these 13 percent, 11 percent travel shorter distances without leaving the region of their residence. Lviv Region, Ivano-Frankivsk Region and Ternopil Region have the highest number of these commuters who travel within the region. As for longer distances, here the SSS uses moving from one administrative locality to another. Commuters travel mostly from Kyiv and Zhytomyr Regions as well as from Kyiv. The SSS collects these data but does not publish the complete data arrays, so we cannot conduct a deeper analysis. But the World Bank did a more detailed analysis almost ten years ago which showed that rural populations tend to commute more. Manual laborers are more likely to engage in commuting.
  • As for domestic migrants who move from one city to another, the State Statistics Service obtains administrative data about the place of registration, that is, estimates the numbers based on the legal place of residence. If we look at the statistics, 500,000 to 800,000 such people migrate within the country every year. In fact, however, there are certain problems with these data, because not all Ukrainian residents live at their official place of registration, and this is very notable even from the official data. If we look at the age distribution of domestic migrants according to the SSS, we will see that the highest fraction of these migrants are young people. For instance, young people move to another city to study and change their registration: students register at dormitories. Cedos estimates have shown that in 2019–2020, 56 percent of first-year students changed their place of residence.
  • The official statistics overlook one major category: the category of the population who often do not have the grounds to register their place of residence. We’ve also conducted a study on how many people do not live at their place of registration, and at least 12 percent of people in Ukraine are in this category. The highest fraction of such individuals live in Kyiv and Kyiv Region. We also saw that the fraction of those who do not live at their place of registration is the highest in the 15 to 34 age category, the period when students graduate, lose their right to live at the dormitory, do not own homes and cannot register. Housing ownership is a prerequisite for registration, because only 3 percent of the population who lived in their own housing did not live at their place of registration. Meanwhile, 66 percent of those who lived in their family’s or rented housing did not live at their place of registration.
  • First of all, we underestimate the population of cities, which is why cities cannot make justified decisions on infrastructure, building schools and kindergartens. In addition, unofficial city residents face problems: it is harder for them to obtain certain services, they have to travel to other cities. But this also affects the unofficial city residents’ attitudes to the city where they live. Our analysis also showed that those who do not live at their place of registration are less likely to participate in various city-related events, in the care for the shared territory; it is also harder for them to vote in local or national elections. So we are talking about young people who are potentially active but do not participate actively due to structural factors. We don’t have reliable public data on domestic migrants or on the population of the cities where the migrants live. We need to change the mechanism which would allow people to register, but also encourage people to register their place of residence.

Pavlo Fedoriv:

  • After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine inherited various inequalities in the system we had in the early 1990s. The official regional policy was built around reducing differences and inequalities between urban and rural areas, so villages were turned into towns as soon as they reached a certain population. Ukraine inherited this system of towns and villages, which means that at the time of gaining independence Ukraine was a regionally unbalanced country. All these regional differences only exacerbated later, and at different levels. For instance, these are inequalities between Kyiv and the other regions, within the regions themselves, between big cities and smaller towns.
  • The regional policy can have different aims, but it is mostly about guaranteeing an adequate quality of living to people within the country. By 2014, Ukraine was already an unbalanced country, so a reform was needed. This was the umbrella reform titled “the decentralization,” which involved many different reforms. On the one hand, it is about merging different localities; on the other hand, it is about changing the system of governmental organization, of local governments and inter-budgetary relations. Decentralization aimed to coordinate territorial policies and policies in various fields, but it still hasn’t happened.
  • The phenomenon of shrinking cities can involve both shrinking populations in general and a shrinking number of households and economically active populations. If a city is losing population, it is losing economic activity; and less taxes means that people in this territory may receive lower-quality services, so their life chances and opportunities are reduced. This leads to further migration and population loss in this territory. Population shrinkage can have several causes. One is the demographic transition. Falling birth rates can mean that the population is aging and shrinking. But there can also be two causes associated with migration: international and domestic migration. If we open the new edition of the State Regional Policy until 2027, we will see neither mentions of a system for managing this shrinkage, nor a reflection of how migration processes affect the migration development. The Policy uses the word “migration” only to mean international migration, while domestic migration is often unjustly overlooked.
  • This migration will create challenges for us in the future. On the one hand, we will need to manage the cities which are currently shrinking. In Ukraine, young people and economically active populations often migrate—that is, the people who can take tax revenue with them. As they leave, the need for social services is not reduced but, on the contrary, can increase, because vulnerable population groups with limited mobility who need help stay. On the other hand, on the opposite end of the spectrum from these shrinking cities are regional centers and the capital, which will need to have better planning under the conditions of this influx of migrants from other regions in order to avoid city sprawl, extensive use of the territories around cities, and in general to use resources effectively. The third challenge is associated with potential migration of people from rural areas to cities which can intensify as the so-called agricultural land market opens in Ukraine. This can lead more and more people in rural areas to sell their land plots, as they aren’t able to have the lifestyle they want there, and move to cities. This will cause rural depopulation and potential deterioration of the standards of living in rural areas; on the other hand, this creates a load for the localities which future migrants will move to. These cities are unprepared in terms of social infrastructure as well as the housing market’s capacity to ensure adequate living conditions in this housing. Ukraine doesn’t have an affordable rent market or an adequate mortgage system which would allow people to buy housing.
  • Large-scale infrastructure building programs will stimulate migration. For instance, the “Great Construction,” which establishes connections between localities that do not only create opportunities for workers, but also give businesses access to potential workforces in the regions. I also believe that this will stimulate migration—not labor migration, but rather migration of students who will travel to study in different localities due to the construction of core schools.
  • A lion’s share of local budget revenue is currently constituted by the individual income tax, that is, taxes on labor income; only a very small share is constituted by capital tax revenues: taxes on land or properties in general. This reliance on the income tax puts communities in a vulnerable position. The more people leave, the lower the capacity of communities. This creates the need for a system of equalization, so that a certain fraction of income taxes from those who leave, regardless of where they live afterwards, could allow people in other regions to have life chances.

Oleg Borysov:

  • Migration to big cities creates opportunities for employment and higher wages, especially for rural populations. Domestic migrants mostly work in construction, retail, catering and hospitality, transit, and as domestic workers.
  • The number of workers in the construction industry is not increasing: in 8 years, the industry lost 172,000 people due to moving to other countries, fatalities, etc. Interestingly, we are talking about young people moving to cities, but the average age of a construction worker is 40 to 50. In many localities, there is barely any male population in this age group left. We say that construction workers are commuters, but, unfortunately, they aren’t. They live and eat, stay at the construction site, sometimes they rent temporary accommodations to work for a while and then go home. The working day starts from 10 hours, and after such an exhausting day people do not want to go home, but look for an opportunity to spend the night, at the construction site or in a dorm provided by the employer.
  • Officially, construction workers earn a little more than minimum wage, and the rest is “under the counter.” Sometimes these commuters do not receive what they are due. Construction workers practically never receive full vacations. The employer sometimes imposes conditions, even harsh ones. For instance, construction workers as commuters are entitled to go home in the evening. But we see that in fact they live at the construction sites to earn money.
  • Construction workers are a very mobile population group. The pandemic has revealed the situation with living conditions, working conditions, health, etc. There were cases when people walked to the sites or paid for their own transportation in order to continue working. The first year of the pandemic showed that local administrations did not see the construction industry as essential because it is about infrastructure. We as a trade union controlled the issue of transit for workers, fought for them to receive money, be able to eat and have proper conditions.