COVID-19’s Impact on Poverty in EstoniaThe COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on countries worldwide, with Estonia being no exception. The country, like many others, experienced a range of harsh effects stemming from the pandemic, including a significant rise in poverty rates. COVID-19’s impact on poverty in Estonia involved economic issues such as labor shortages and increasing inflation rates.

Poverty Before and After COVID-19

In 2018, before the pandemic, Estonia’s poverty rate was at its lowest, with only 20% of the country’s population living in poverty. When the pandemic hit in 2019, this number rose to about 60%.

Although Estonia initially had a strong COVID-19 rebound, it eventually encountered a quick and rapid decline in monetary aspects. It experienced a decline in the labor market, which contributed to an increase in poverty. The labor shortage issues have been causing steady price inflation since 2021.

Approximately 75% of Estonians aged 65 or older live in relative poverty, while the poverty rate for women has surged by around 10%. In 2021, 22.8% of Estonians were at risk of poverty. And the number of individuals who were already living in poverty escalated by approximately 2.2% after 2020.

The absolute poverty rate in Estonia is up to 5% as of 2021. The majority of those in absolute poverty are between the age range of 18 to 24 years old.

The heightened poverty rates in Estonia stem directly from the rise in unemployment rates. In 2020, job availability declined, causing many Estonians to lose their employment. Furthermore, certain industries, including social affairs, health care and education, faced difficulty in hiring qualified personnel to fill open positions.

Recovery Efforts

One positive aspect of Estonia’s situation is its existing digital infrastructure, which allowed the country to adapt more seamlessly to the rapid shift toward technology during the COVID-19 pandemic. The country’s advanced technological landscape has facilitated significant improvements in the areas of health and education.

By virtue of digital advancements, Estonia’s public services were able to continue operating without significant disruption during the pandemic. The country launched its e-Cabinet initiative in 2000, transitioning decision-making processes from paper-based documents to digital systems. This initiative was further strengthened in 2020, with minimal negative effects on Estonians, who were already familiar with these technological innovations.

Additionally, Estonia improved its healthcare system by utilizing its expertise in technological innovations. The country developed apps like the ViVeo Health app, which allowed Estonians to connect with health care professionals through video calls.

Measures that Aided Estonians During COVID-19

Between March 2020 and December 2021, the European Commission approved millions of euros on multiple occasions toward schemes that aim to help Estonia recover from the impact of the pandemic.

In addition to the European Commission’s donations, the Estonian government authorized a budget support package that was applied across several agencies and sectors. This support budget resulted in a 9% boost to the gross domestic product from 2018.

Estonia also preordered vaccines from various suppliers to ensure securing enough for its entire population.

Looking Ahead

Overall, COVID-19’s impact on poverty in Estonia has been far-reaching. COVID-19 caused an increase in unemployment and a decrease in job availability, ultimately leading to a rise in poverty rates. However, despite these negative impacts, Estonia continues to make progress in recovering from COVID-19. The country is benefitting from aid from the European Commission, improved fiscal support systems and strong digital advancements.

– Merlis Burgos-Ramos
Photo: Flickr

Estonia's Foreign Aid
Estonia is a Baltic country located in Northern Europe, which gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Although it is a newly independent country, Estonia has a developed economy with its globally known advanced digital services industry. Being an EU member state since 2004 and an OECD member state since 2010, Estonia’s economy is growing. The country’s GDP in 2021 was $51,531 billion, with $38,700 per capita, according to The CIA World Factbook.

How is Estonia’s Foreign Aid Organized?

Estonia’s foreign aid focus on two aspects, which are development cooperation and humanitarian assistance. Between 2020 and 2030, Estonia is providing development assistance, in particular to Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova in Europe and to Botswana, Kenya, Namibia and Uganda in Africa. Estonia’s priorities in its development aid are ensuring peace, security and stability, diminishing poverty in target countries, and sharing its development experience with them in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Estonia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that Estonia’s foreign aid serves not only the development of other countries but also Estonia’s own security. To realize this purpose, two institutions are in charge of organizing Estonia’s foreign aid. On the one hand, the Department for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia is the policy maker of the country’s official development assistance program. It sets strategies, and short-term and long-term action plans both for development assistance and humanitarian aid. On the other hand, Estonia Centre for International Development is responsible for implementing Estonia’s foreign aid projects both in development cooperation and in the field of humanitarian assistance, increasing Estonia’s participation in international aid projects and providing a bridge between the stakeholders and the beneficiaries. The centre is delivering its duties in a way that best serves the country’s interest.

The Amount That Estonia Spends on Foreign Aid

Although Estonia organizes its foreign aid professionally, when it comes to numbers, Estonia does not meet the international standards for official development assistance (ODA) amount. In 1970, the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DCA) set its ODA target for the first time that member countries should spend 0.7% of their GDP on their ODA programs. There has been no change in this target since then. Additionally, the member states who were members of the EU by 2004 agreed in 2005 to meet this target by 2015. Despite the fact that Estonia joined the EU only in 2004 and received an exemption from the aforementioned commitment, as an OECD member country, Estonia is still under the obligation of sparing an amount for its ODA equal to 0.7% of its GDP.

Estonia used to increase the ratio of its GDP spared for foreign aid. According to Estdev, in 2016, Estonia allocated 0.19% of its GDP for foreign aid, its record so far. Following that, between 2017 and 2020, Estonia spared 0.16% of its state budget for its ODA program. Lately, in 2021 Estonia increased this ratio to 0.17%, which is equal to $59 million, according to OECD.

The Future of Estonia’s Foreign Aid

It is a positive sign that the COVID-19 pandemic did not prevent Estonia from continuing its foreign aid activities at the same level. Moreover, the Estonian government pledged to increase the rate spent on foreign aid to 0.33% by 2030, according to its Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, this target is far from the OECD ODA target.

 – Murathan Arslancan
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in Estonia
Estonia, the northernmost Baltic state, is a member of the European Union that was formerly part of the Soviet Union. After gaining independence in 1991, newly recognized Estonia embarked on a series of political and economic reforms. Many now commonly refer to the country as one of the Baltic Tigers alongside Latvia and Lithuania because of its rapid economic growth. Today, Estonia is a developed, high-income country that consistently ranks high in quality of life, education and digitalization. Despite this, Estonia still lacks in other indicators of development. The road to capitalism increased inequalities in Estonian society that did not exist under communism. Citizens lost some of the safety nets they previously had. Elderly poverty in Estonia remains a significant issue that demographic trends and a fragile pension system exacerbate.

The Estonian Pension System

As of December 2020, 41.4% of Estonians over the age of 65 are at risk of poverty, which is one of the highest rates across the European Union. This percentage has significantly increased since 2011 when it stood at 13.1%. When the Estonian government modernized the economy and pension system after independence in 1991, young people benefitted more because they had more time to collect into their pensions. Those approaching old age or already receiving pensions suffered, evident in the high elderly poverty rate today. When people reach retirement age in Estonia, they receive a pension based on the time they spent contributing to the labor force. In addition to this, Estonians can opt into two other pension pillars, one based on their income and one based on voluntary contributions.

  1. State Pension. The first pillar of the pension system is mandatory for all Estonians. It aims to guarantee a standard of living above the absolute poverty line. Social taxes that the government collected fund this pillar. Citizens receive a pension based on the number of years worked.
  2. Wage-based Pension. Estonians can participate in this pillar by contributing 2% of their salary to a pension fund. This pillar used to be mandatory but is voluntary as of 2021.
  3. Supplementary Funded Pension. This pillar, which insurance companies and banks managed, allows people to make extra payments into their pensions.

With the aging population, the number of pensioners is quickly rising, putting pressure on pension sizes. The Estonian population is aging and the number of working-age people is decreasing. The social tax revenue that funds pensions is likely to decline. The media has criticized the reforms that made the second pension pillar voluntary for their potential to destabilize the economy and increase poverty among the elderly.

Gender and Elderly Poverty

Elderly women are especially vulnerable to poverty in Estonia. According to the OECD, 42.8% of women over 65 in Estonia live in relative poverty, compared with 21.4% of their male counterparts. Women also have a much higher life expectancy than men in Estonia. They are living on average 8.4 years longer than men.

This could mean that women often end up widowed and lose their husband’s source of income. This only compounds the financial problems elderly women may already face because of low pensions. 

Looking to the Future

Despite this, the Estonian government has made efforts to combat elderly poverty. Recent reforms adjusted the retirement age to increase every year with the life expectancy. A higher retirement age means people work longer, contributing more to pension funds that Estonia will need in the future. The Estonian government wants to ensure that the pension gap between men and women does not grow. To do that, it is calling for measures to reduce the gender pay gap. The measures include increasing the Labor Inspectorate’s supervision of wages and promoting gender equality curricula in schools.

The government has not yet analyzed the effects of this plan as it extends into 2023. On a supranational level, the European Union proposed legislation in early 2021 that would require companies to report on pay disparities between males and females. The wage gap has dropped from 22.5% in 2013 to 19.7% in 2020 and projects to drop another percentage point by 2023.

To address elderly poverty in Estonia, various organizations are working on regional, national and European levels. The European Anti-Poverty Network has a commitment to eradicating poverty across Europe and placing the fight against poverty and social exclusion at the top of the EU agenda. It has partnered with the Estonian Association of Pensioners (EPUL), which cooperates with government agencies to protect the rights of the elderly.

Its primary activities are advocacy-focused and help bring elderly voices to the forefront of Estonian politics through public events, lectures and lobbying meetings. In 2018, EPUL signed an agreement that formed elderly councils in the Tallinn city government to involve the elderly in decision-making. The organization also gives free legal aid to the elderly and provided 817 hours of free legal help in 2018.

Though the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on elderly poverty in Estonia is not certain. However, trends in the years leading up to 2020 are favorable. The relative poverty rate is slowly decreasing, as is the gender pay gap that affects old-age pensions. With NGO work and strong national policies, Estonia is on its way to alleviating and eradicating poverty among its most vulnerable population, the elderly.

– Emma Tkacz
Photo: Unsplash

free public transportation in EstoniaEstonia is a northeastern European country of about 1.2 million people. It is bordered by Russia to the east, Latvia to the south and is a short distance across the Baltic sea from Finland, to the north. Formerly part of the Soviet Union, Estonia is now a member of NATO and the EU. Also a part of the United Nations, Estonia is subject to the U.N.’s annual Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There are 17 goals, such as no poverty and zero hunger. SDG Goal 11 is Sustainable Cities and Communities. It calls on countries to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” The country is currently making commendable progress in creating and maintaining sustainable cities and communities, such as providing free public transportation in Estonia. However, challenges do remain.

Updates on SDG 11 in Estonia

  1. The annual mean concentration of particulate matter of fewer than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5): This is the first of the four progress markers for SDG Goal 11. PM2.5 essentially measures the level of air pollution that can cause significant respiratory or other health issues. The long-term SDG objective is to lower this value to 6.3. Over the past decade, Estonia has made great progress in curtailing air pollution. It is remarkably close to the SDG goal, most recently clocking in at just over 6.7. According to the World Health Organization, Estonia is one of the six nations with the cleanest air in the world.
  2. Access to an improved water source piped: Nearly the entire Estonian population has access to an immediate source of improved piped drinking water. According to the SDG report, an ‘improved’ drinking-water source will protect the source from outside contamination. Although most industrialized nations provide widespread access to clean drinking water, Estonia’s progress is still positive. Its neighbors, Latvia and Russia are both hovering around 97% access. This puts them at a lower SDG classification than Estonia who is between 99-100%.
  3. Free public transportation in Estonia: Of the surveyed Estonian population, 67.4% report being ‘satisfied’ with their local public transportation systems. The SDG report has Estonia on track to eventually reach the desired percentage to 82.6%. Public transport is the area that needs the most improvement in SDG Goal 11. Estonia’s capital city of Tallinn is notable for being the first capital in history to offer free public transportation to its residents. Non-residents and international travelers still have to pay. Though Tallinn loses almost all of its revenue from bus fares, public transportation has improved and the city’s population is growing. As a result, this boosts local tax revenue. Additionally, fewer cars on the streets cut down on air pollution, contributing to success in that category. Free public transportation in Estonia is an idea that is catching on in places like Luxembourg. Now, it is the first nation to offer free public transportation to everyone (citizens and foreigners alike).
  4. Population with rent overburden: The SDG report classifies this as the “percentage of the population living in households where the total housing costs represent more than 40% of disposable income.” Just 4.7% of Estonian households spend more than 40% of their income on rent. Estonia is only a tenth of a percentage point higher from reaching the SDG goal of 4.6%. In reducing rent overburden, Estonia helps stimulate its economy. Citizens with more money to spend and the desire to do so are one of the principal factors behind economic growth. As of 2019, Estonia has the fourth-highest GDP growth rate in the EU.
  5. Sustainable cities and communities: Even in public transport, where there is the most work to do, Estonians are showing a commitment to developing better ideas and solutions. Ridango and Singleton, two Estonian businesses, are teaming up to improve transport-related technology such as mobile apps for ticketing. Free public transportation in Estonia is currently a reality for 11 of its 15 counties. However, residents still have to fork over a whole two euros for a travel card that they never have to buy again. There is still a ways to go. Free public transportation in Estonia is a great example of a creatively developing sustainable cities and communities.

Estonia is making a great effort to create a sustainable city and fulfill the SDG Goal 11 of Sustainable Cities and Communities with clean air and improved water source piped. The government is also helping citizens with overburdened rent and the private sectors are helping to improve transportation.

Spencer Jacobs
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Estonia
Estonia is a small country in eastern Europe. Estonia is a former USSR state that gained independence in 1991. As a part of the USSR, Estonia had to rebuild the entire country, including the healthcare system. Healthcare in Estonia has improved since its independence. Though Estonia has come a long way in advancing the quality of its healthcare system, the newly independent country still has a long way to go.

Issues with the Current System

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Estonia is behind in many aspects of the healthcare system in comparison to the European Union counterparts. Estonia spends almost half of the money on healthcare per capita in comparison to the average in other European Union countries. Estonia’s life expectancy is 2.5 years less than the European average. Also, Estonia has a 13% rate of unmet medical needs while the European average is under 3%.

The lack of adequate healthcare funding causes Estonia to have a shortage of nurses, doctors and enough infrastructure to care for patients. The number of doctors and nurses in Estonia decreases every year because they do not get paid enough. According to Politico, Estonia has lost 141.6 doctors and nurses per 100,000 people between 1998 and 2016, the highest percentage in Europe. With a decreasing number of healthcare professionals, a future where citizens cannot receive the care they need seems imminent.

Another issue troubling the healthcare system of Estonia is the unhealthy habits of Estonia’s citizens. Estonia has a sizeable amount of people who are current smokers, alcohol consumers and overweight or obese. According to WHO, 24% of adults in Estonia smoke daily, 23% binge drink and 20% are obese. With the immense number of people with unhealthy habits and a progressing healthcare system, Estonia struggles to adequately care for the large number of people who develop chronic diseases.

Last, Estonia has one of the highest rates of those without long-term health insurance coverage in the European Union. Because so many people in Estonia do not have long-term health insurance, uninsured people do not get the healthcare they need to prevent and treat diseases.

Estonia’s healthcare system impacts the impoverished significantly more than its upper classes. According to WHO, the percentage of low-income Estonians who are in good health is 34% while the middle class is 51% and the high class is 75%. Also, low-income and educated individuals are more likely to binge drink, over twice as likely to smoke and almost 30% more likely to be obese. Lastly, the lowest education and income group in Estonia is about 50% more likely to have chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma and 40% more likely to have hypertension.

Positive Change

Though there are many issues facing healthcare in Estonia, promising developments in the system have been reported. Estonia recently approved a National Health Plan to run from the years 2020 to 2030. The overall goal of this plan is to improve life expectancy and quality of life. The National Health Plan is to implement three plans to improve the quality of healthcare, promote healthy choices and create a healthy environment.

The Estonian government also approved a bill to increase healthcare spending by 180 million euros on top of the normal funding. The government stated that the additional money will “improve the accessibility of healthcare services and the consistency and quality of care.”

With the implementation of a good deal of new legislation in Estonia, healthcare in Estonia has a promising future.

– Hannah Drzewiecki
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in EstoniaIn the mid-90s and early 2000s, Estonia, a country in Northern Europe, oversaw a housing reform. This reform sought to improve the living conditions for Estonians and reduce the number of people who were experiencing homelessness in Estonia. Here’s the situation today:

6 Facts About Homelessness in Estonia

  1. A small percentage of Estonians are homeless – The Institute of Global Homelessness reported that around 864 Estonians were homeless in 2011, which amounts to 0.06% of the population. However, in 2018, the European Journal of Homelessness estimated that 1.5% of Estonians are homeless, which amounts to between 1,900 and 2,100 people.
  2. Unemployment can be a major influence on homelessness in Estonia – A 2014 study in the European Journal of Homelessness found that 5.5% of Estonians are unemployed (2% of which reside in Tallinn, the capital.)
  3. Alcohol dependency can inhibit self-subsistence – The percentage of Estonians who are homeless with mental health issues is increasing, and some of these issues may result from alcohol dependency, alongside other factors. Alcoholism can make it more difficult for people who are trying to gain self-sufficiency.
  4. Testing (for respiratory diseases such as COVID-19) is insufficient for homeless shelters in many European countries – People in shelters who test positive for airborne illnesses must be isolated, according to a report by members of the European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless (FEANTSA), yet self-isolation is not always easy in shelters. In an Estonian shelter, after one individual in the shelter tested positive for COVID-19, testing was made available for the other residents, and 56% of those who lived in the shelter tested positive as well. FEANTSA argues that “housing must be reaffirmed as a human right” in order to help those who are experiencing homelessness in Estonia.
  5. Certain shelters and programs provide the homeless with residential services – Shelters like the one in Nõmme District in Tallinn provide the homeless in Estonia with a resocialization plan where residents work on gaining work skills to be able to afford residential spaces of their own. Half of the shelter’s residents pay their own fees that they gained from employment to stay in the shelter, and if a resident cannot pay, the city pays on his/her behalf. This plan lasts for six months, though residents are allowed to stay for longer if they aren’t able to afford their own place of residence at that time.
  6. Housing has improved for Estonians since the 90s – In 1989, there were more households in Estonia than there were residences. From 1994-2004, a housing reform took place, and by 2011, the number of residences was 16% greater than the number of households. Though factors such as rising rental costs can still make it hard for a struggling family to afford to live in their own residence, living conditions have improved overall.

As Estonia’s government has been working to reduce homelessness, programs that have helped reform housing have been effective in reducing homelessness in Estonia since the 1990s. Yet there is still work to be done – lessening the situations which cause homelessness is imperative.

Ayesha Asad
Photo: Unsplash

countering hunger in Estonia
Estonia is a country located in Northern Europe, directly below Finland. Throughout the 1980s, it was under the illegal control of the U.S.S.R., but Estonia officially declared its independence on August 20, 1991. However, the country had been heavily dependent on the U.S.S.R., which was the source of 92% of Estonia’s national trade. This made the path to independence long and arduous for the small country. Despite the challenges of gaining economic independence, the citizens of Estonia remained persistent and diligent. Their successful bid for independence marks the end of one hurdle and the beginning of another. Countering hunger in Estonia is a challenge in which the nation continues to make significant strides forward.

Incredible Decline in Hunger Since the 1990s

After declaring independence, Estonians had to stand in long lines for many hours, just to buy food. In 2000, 5.6% of the population was undernourished. In 2019, this percentage was reduced to 2.9%, according to the Global Hunger Index (GHI).

The Estonian Food Bank and the European Aid Fund have been working together with local governments in countering hunger in Estonia. They have provided food for those in need of it since 2015 with roughly 25,000 people aided each year. In 2016, the Estonian Food Bank and the Stockholm Environment Institute Tallinn Centre created the “Consume food wisely!” campaign. Its goal is to reduce food waste while also spreading awareness about the issue. In a concerted effort, large stores and restaurants also supported the campaign.

The Estonian Animal Breeding Association set forth a project named “Implementation of cattle breeding and feeding measures in Georgian dairy farms”. The main aim of the project; to increase the efficiency of dairy farms. Lasting from 2016 to 2017, the project focused on teaching farmers how to properly cultivate cattle and operate husbandry technologies. Estonia’s agricultural productivity was €9,465, in 2016. Continuing this trend, in 2018 the agricultural productivity had reached €15,812.

Decreased Child Mortality Rate

Children are the most vulnerable group when it comes to death caused by hunger. In 2000, the amount of under five-year-old child deaths was at 1.1%. Moreover, this number shrunk to 0.3%, by 2019.

When it comes to malnutrition in children, weight and height are efficient indicators. In 2000, underweight children accounted for 2.4%, according to the GHI. After much fluctuation, the number remained at 2.4%, in 2019. Furthermore, children with stunted height accounted for 3.6%, in 2000 and this number dropped to 3.4% by 2019.

Based on information from the OECD, 16% of the population of Estonia lives in relative income poverty. If the country’s population had to forgo three months of their income, 40% would be at risk for slipping into poverty. When looking at households, 18% use up to 40% of their income on housing, which leaves little left for food, after additional costs.

Progress Continues with Estonia’s Economy

Estonia’s economy has been progressing exceedingly well since it gained its independence from the U.S.S.R. With the help of innovative government projects and outside funds, the people have taken many great steps toward countering hunger in Estonia.  The nation is one of just 17 countries who have a GHI score under five — out of the 117 total qualifying countries. Estonia is a shining example of what inquisitive thinking, research and aid can do to improve a once starving nation.

– Emma Green
Photo: Pixbay

Life Expectancy in Estonia
Estonia, a beautiful, Baltic country with a historically turbulent background, is a striking model of a nation that refuses to let adversities stand in the way of its mission for improvement. Despite Estonia’s many challenges over the last two decades, it continues to prove that positive change is possible, no matter how small. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Estonia demonstrate the most notable progress the country has made in pursuit of a longer and higher quality of life for its people. 

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Estonia

  1. As of 2018, the life expectancy for Estonian women was 82 years, while it was 72.3 years for men, adding roughly three years to the lifespans of both genders since 2008. While these numbers are still slightly below the EU average for 2018 (84 years for women and 79 for men), Estonia has made quite a dent in its life expectancy gap over the last decade.
  2. Preventable diseases largely affect low life expectancy in Estonia. Cardiovascular disease is responsible for killing three in five women and nearly half of all Estonian men. Various types of cancer account for the deaths of 22 percent of women and 27 percent of men, making it the leading cause of death in Estonia.
  3. In the last decade, Estonia’s Parliament introduced initiatives to address the number of deaths resulting from risky behaviors like alcohol abuse, injectable drug use and smoking. Initiatives involved a national Drug Prevention Policy and public awareness campaigns on the harmful effects of alcohol use and smoking. Daily smoking is down to 17.2 percent in 2018 compared to 30 percent in 2001. People who used injectables for at least three years decreased from 21 percent in 2005 to eight percent in 2011. Alcohol abuse is still alarmingly high, though, and accounted for 21.4 percent of all casualties in 2015 despite awareness campaigns and restrictions on alcohol sale and increased excise taxes.
  4. The Estonian Government approved a National Health Plan for 2014 through 2020 to improve the quality and accessibility of health care institutions. To ensure all socioeconomic groups had access to the same quality of care, Estonia opened a national health insurance fund for patient reimbursements, required doctors and pharmacists to prescribe the most affordable medication available and launched an online platform to ensure that the health care system remained as transparent as possible.
  5. Estonia launched an e-prescription service alongside its National Health Plan. By 2011, the medical field issued 84 percent of all prescriptions digitally with a 90 percent satisfaction rate. This digital shift also benefited pharmacies, cutting staff costs related to incorrect prescriptions by 90 percent and putting considerable savings back into the national health fund in order to further improve life expectancy in Estonia.
  6. Around 44,000 people or 3.4 percent of the Estonian population lived in absolute poverty as of 2017. Low income and poorly educated populations in Estonia were 50 percent more likely to develop respiratory diseases and 40 percent more likely to develop hypertension than those operating at the highest levels of income. But, social transfers in the form of benefits and pensions saved 22.8 percent of the population from slipping into poverty in the first place.
  7. Estonian’s who go on to earn a university degree may live 14 years longer than those who only attain lower secondary educations. In 2014, 90 percent of Estonian adults between the ages of 25 and 64 had achieved upper secondary or tertiary forms of education. This number is comparatively much higher than the OECD average of 75 percent.
  8. Economic growth in Estonia is directly related to the country’s astonishing technological advancement since 1991. This advancement has played a major role in creating jobs in Estonia. According to The World Bank, over 14,000 new tech companies registered in Estonia in 2011, a 40 percent increase since 2008. High-tech companies also account for 15 percent of the country’s GDP.
  9. In an effort to combat high unemployment among Estonian youth, the country established ENTRUM (Youth Entrepreneurship Development Programme). The program aims to encourage creativity, problem-solving skills and knowledge of risk management. Between 2010 and 2012, over 1,000 teens participated in the program. Former participants went on to create 59 new businesses, the most successful employing upwards of 60 people.
  10. Estonia boasts a massive network of over 33,000 registered nonprofit organizations acting as service providers for citizens. These organizations employ 28,000 Estonian, making the nonprofit sector responsible for the paid employment of four to five percent of the national workforce. 

Despite its turbulent past, Estonia has proven over the last two decades that it is capable of great improvement. These improvements come in the form of technological advancement, transparent and efficient health care and government initiatives focused on accessing all citizens and ensuring they receive the care they need. 

Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Estonia
Estonia, a small Baltic nation, is often perceived by the Western countries as the standard bearer of former communists values that took steps to embrace capitalistic and democratic ideals.

Be that as it may, poverty is still very prevalent in this European nation and living conditions in Estonia are certainly not ideal.

Top 10 facts about living conditions in Estonia, the most important facts, both positive and negative, within the context of Estonians’ access to shelter, education, transportation, health and general well-being will be discussed in this article.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions In Estonia

  1. According to the OECD index, the average Estonian household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is $18,665 a year. This number is significantly lower than the OECD average of $30,563 a year. This figure represents the amount of money available to be spent on necessary goods and services, such as food and heating. With this average, Estonia lacks behind countries such as Slovenia, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.
  2. There is a considerable income disparity between the rich and poor in Estonia. The top 20 percent of the population earn more than five times as much as the bottom 20 percent. In an interview with Estonian Public Broadcasting, the CEO of Swedbank Eesti, Robert Kitt, said that though Estonia has a strong and thriving business sector inequality is also greater than ever before.
  3. Estonia has the most carbon-intensive economy within the OECD. However, with 51 percent of Estonia’s land being forest, Estonians are breathing well. The level of atmospheric particulate matter, air pollutant particles small enough to cause damage to lungs and make breathing harder, is well below the OECD average.
  4. Estonia provides hot school lunches, study books and learning materials for free to students in basic education. This is a standard since 2006 and is a clear step of the country in enabling education more equitable and accessible to everyone. And it has worked since Estonia has one of the highest levels of educational attainment, with 90 percent of people in the age group of 25 from 64 have completed upper secondary education. Estonian women perform exceedingly well in tertiary education with 45 percent of Estonian women completing the third level of education, compared to 28 percent of Estonian men achieving the same feat.
  5. A surprising fact about living conditions in Estonia is that a comparatively high percentage of citizens live below the poverty line. By estimation, 3.4 percent of the population lives under the poverty line, and by this regard, Estonia is similar to nations such as Ecuador and Venezuela, nations that are perceived as being economically unstable and inequitable.
  6. Estonia has a solidarity health insurance system, ensuring the same quality of care for all insured people, regardless of age, income or health risks. Additionally, citizens with disabilities receive social allowance through the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund.
  7. Estonia has a very small homeless population. The Foundation Abbé Pierre and Feantsa estimate that around 1,371 Estonians are homeless. Lodging shelters, homeless shelters and resource centers have stepped in to help those that are indeed homeless, especially in the most populous city in Estonia, Tallinn, where there is the most need for this aid.
  8. According to the World Bank, in 1994, the average life expectancy of Estonians was at 66.5 years. In 2016, this number was at 77.8 years, Although the life expectancy rate has vastly improved, it still lags behind the average of the European Union. Estonia faces a shortage of nurses and family physicians, as funding for such services has dwindled in rural regions of Estonia. At 6.5 percent of its GDP being spent on health care, Estonia is short of the EU member-state average of 9.9 percent.
  9. About 94 percent of Estonians are insured. The others, uninsured, do receive emergency care, as well as take part in other public health programs and treatments in which the national or city government provides compensation or free care. Tuberculosis and HIV drug treatments are covered by the state in many cases.
  10. Bus transportation is free for Estonian citizens, as long as they are located in a territory that has accepted national government funds to do so. Because of this, travel from outer regions to urban centers such as Tallinn is very affordable, if not free, allowing for more movement of peoples and funds as well.

Like most Western nations, Estonia is no perfect place for all of its people. Poverty is high while general satisfaction is lower than average, but steps have been taken to ensure better living conditions such as access to transportation, education and health care.

In the article, both the negative and positive aspects of Estonia’s current living conditions are presented, as well as the comparison of these living conditions to other nations in order to allow one to more easily discern what life is like for those in Estonia and compare it to their own lives.

– Kurt Thiele
Photo: Unsplash

Help the People of EstoniaEstonia is a crucial ally for the United States in the modern age. On March 29, 2004, Estonia joined NATO as a means to strengthen their position in the world and form stronger international relations with the West. Since then, the United States, as well as many other key NATO members, have maintained a strong presence in Estonia to guarantee the nation’s security.

To help the people of Estonia, it is important to consider how to improve the state of their home lives. There are a lot of charitable groups that donate to help displaced children and young mothers.

Caritas Estonia is a valuable organization in Estonia which dedicates itself to improving the lives of vulnerable Estonian women. Their approach to helping the people of Estonia is to provide the support necessary to empower underage mothers and pregnant teenagers to participate and advance in the Estonian workforce.

Another organization working to strengthen Estonian families is SOS Children’s Villages (SOS CV). The organization started in 1992, shortly after Estonia gained its independence from Russia. SOS CV offers a valuable service to the most vulnerable 20 percent of Estonia’s population: it’s children. SOS CV provides homes for children whose parents can no longer afford to house them.

How can you help the people of Estonia? Browse the websites of these organizations to learn more about the work they do. You can donate your time and money to a worthy cause helping to strengthen the Estonian workforce and care for children in Estonia.

You can also email Congress via The Borgen Project’s website. The Borgen Project is an American organization whose purpose is to lobby U.S. Congress to implement policy changes to help reduce poverty around the globe.

These are just a few ways how you can help the people of Estonia.

Tim Sherwood

Photo: Flickr