Asian workers replace the reduced numbers of Ukrainian and Belarusian drivers in the EU

Due to the war in Ukraine, the European transport market has lost 166 thousand truck drivers from Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia, as Dutch industry portal Nieuwsblad Transport states. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians left at the beginning of the war.

Last year experts forecasted that the market would lose even more drivers and the industry would be damaged due to the staff shortage. However, the expected outflow did not happen. Cargo carriers admit the departure of the Ukrainians was apparent, but in the long run it proved to be pretty limited.

These relatively small changes in the labor market in the transport industry led to the fact that European companies had to hire drivers from other countries, Caucasus, Central and South-East Asia.

The Dutch trade union FNV noted that workers from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan started to arrive quickly in Europe. Lithuanian and Polish transport companies admit that they hire residents of these counties. These two countries are the ones through which the largest number of non-EU drivers come to work in the EU. It is estimated that about 80% of foreign truck drivers go through them.

According to the information provided by the Polish State Employment Agency, in 2022 Poland gave more than 365 thousand labor permits for non-EU foreigners, most of them to citizens of Ukraine (85 thousand), India (42 thousand), Uzbekistan (33 thousand), Turkey (25 thousand), and the Philippines (22 thousand). A significant part—19%, i.e. more than 70 thousand people—was employed in the transport and logistics industry, whereby the majority of them (almost 47 thousand people) were hired as truck and bus drivers.

Last year Lithuania gave more than 23 thousand labor permits for third-country foreigners. The majority of these permits were given to citizens of Belarus (42%), Kyrgyzstan (13%), Uzbekistan (11%), Tajikistan (9%), and Ukraine (5%). Most of the permits—a little bit less than 17 thousand, or 72%—were given to truck drivers.