Prepayment but no guarantees of work – a shadow market of recruitment services operates for Ukrainians in Finland 

A lot of paid job vacancies are proposed in the agricultural sector. PHOTO:
Lack of job search experience and poor knowledge of the Finnish language pushes Ukrainians to resort to paid employment services. The demand strengthens the illegal market and attracts scammers.

Svitlana Yeharmina

Published 06.05.2024 11:03

Updated 06.05.2024 12:09

Ukrainian Inna Dyka has been looking for work long in Finland, but so far without success. Once she saw information about a suitable vacancy on one of the websites that assist Ukrainians and responded to the advertisement.  

Instead of the employer, she was contacted by a man who introduced himself as a recruiter from the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia. The man asked Dyka to pay 350 euros for providing details of the potential job and the contact details of the Finnish employer. 200 euros should be paid immediately and the rest after she is employed.  

Dyka decided to pay, but it turned out that someone else had already gotten the job. For over three months, the intermediary promised that he would soon find a job for her. The only thing he delivered however, were translated job advertisements from Finnish websites.  

Why do Ukrainians pay for job vacancies? 

Currently, in Finland there are over 60,000 Ukrainians who have evacuated from the war. According to a survey conducted by the Finnish Ministry of the Interior in the summer of 2022, more than 70 percent of newly arrived Ukrainians wanted to find a job. 

Ukrainians often do not understand how the job market in Finland works, and many are not prepared to search for work independently, as this process takes a lot of time. Additionally, many do not speak Finnish and also lack sufficient English skills, which makes communication and finding information more difficult. This provides opportunities for scammers, who offer non-existing vacancies or jobs with totally different conditions from those discussed initially.  

“Job searching in Finland can take several months to half a year and requires effort: you have to review vacancies daily, write letters and send resumes. Ukrainians are not ready for this, and after a month of independent searching, many lose faith,” says Yulia Bilozor, a Ukrainian who works as a legal recruiter in Finland. 

Many of the newcomers see intermediaries as a solution. Their promise is that the job seeker needs only fill a form once and send their resumé. The intermediary takes care of the rest – from job details to assistance with signing the contract.  

Familiar path of job search 

Although charging for job placement is illegal in Finland, many Ukrainians are used to paying for job offers.  

The black labor market for Ukrainians in Finland formed already in the mid-2010s. Before the full-scale war, there were many companies in Ukraine that provided services for people searching for a job abroad.  

It was typical to charge between 300 and 600 euros for recruitment for seasonal work and between 1000 and 1500 euros for long-term contract in Finland. Assistance with visa processing and transportation was paid separately. 

One of those, who traveled to Finland for seasonal work, was Svitlana Brovarska. First she picked strawberries, later vegetables. Despite working for several years on the same farm, she had to pay the intermediary each time.  

“It didn’t make sense for the farmer to bother with hiring individuals: the intermediary brought cheap labor in the required quantity. If the farmer had started hiring Ukrainians independently, the intermediary would have stopped supplying him with workers”, Brovarska says.  

With the onset of the war, demand for intermediary services decreased, but this method of job search is still popular. What has changed is that the services of intermediaries for Ukrainians who have temporary shelter in Finland have become cheaper.  

Also a new type of service has emerged. Someone, who already has a job, recommends a new employee to their employer. If the person gets the job, they are expected to “pay back”. 

There’s no fixed amount. According to Satakieli’s investigation, the sums can vary between 100 and 500 euros. 

There are also cases of Ukrainians seeking illegal work to not lose the social assistance they receive as refugees. Intermediaries help find such work, as they have a well-established network of contacts over the years. 

Where do Ukrainians look for intermediaries? 

Contacts for intermediaries are passed from person to person. Advertisements are also published on social media in Ukrainian or Russian. Typical sign of that the job seeker will be charged is that there is no company name and contact information in the advertisement.  

For example, Russian-language Telegram channel called “Work in Finland” has nearly 6,000 subscribers. The group states that they do not charge for vacancies. However, to apply for a job, one must write to a generic email address provided for all advertisements or subscribe to the paid version of the channel, which should include direct contact information for employers. 

Ukrainian recruiting agencies also operate their channels on Telegram. For example, channel A.Ganchev HR Consulting and Recruitment has more than 3,000 subscribers.  

As a test, we contacted them to inquire about seasonal work in agriculture. The agency offered vacancies they would not charge for, but also several jobs they would require payment from the job seeker. Payments for getting a berry or cucumber picking job were ranging from 160 to 230 euros. 

Also in Ukrainian Facebook groups, there are often job proposals, where the applicant is expected to pay money. For example, in the Ukrainian-language group “Job Search and Offers in Finland,” with over 18,000 members, there are both free vacancies and those for which jobseekers are asked for money in private messages.  

“We prohibit advertisements that are fraudulent or require money for employment, and any suspicious activity is promptly blocked. We encourage group members to report any violations”, says Denys Pertsev, the group’s administrator. According to him, in the last four years, moderators have received only three complaints about advertisements with hidden payment.  

These groups also attract scammers who take money for passing off totally made-up jobs. After receiving payment, they usually stop answering questions. 

It is practically impossible to hold scammers accountable in Finland. They typically operate from fake accounts and outside the country’s jurisdiction.  

A phenomenon that is hard to tackle 

The phenomenon is familiar to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland. However, preventing it completely is nearly impossible, since often payment for recruitment occurs outside of Finland. 

“The best advice is not to pay anything, since the jobs available in Finland don’t require payments from the job seeker”, says Susanna Piepponen, senior specialist at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. 

She recommends job seekers to contact the police or the labor protection authority of the regional administrative authority if somebody asks for money for a job offering.  

“Especially if one has to borrow money in order to pay for the recruitment, it makes the person vulnerable to exploitation.”