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

58. Poverty in Former USSR States

The countries that once made up the USSR are complex and differ in nearly every way. During the most of the 20th century, however, they were ruled over by one central government. Since the peaceful fall of the regime, the Soviet Union has splintered into the different countries we know today, connected via the Commonwealth of Independent States. Although poverty in former USSR states has generally decreased when comparing the rates of today to the past, this does not mean that the road to alleviating poverty in former USSR states was easy.

For many of the former “-stan” countries, for example, the fall had a rather negative effect on those economies. Turkmenistan became a dictatorship whose elections were not deemed fair and democratic. As a result, the country became very corrupt. Uzbekistan was not ruled by a dictatorship, but corruption inside the country is very high, making foreign aid difficult to administer. Furthermore, due to a highly controversial massacre of protesters in the country in 2005, it is the only country to have cut ties with the Western world. Tajikistan suffered a civil war right after the collapse. Kazakhstan, on the other hand, is different. The country has grown its economy since its independence due to its robust energy industry. Except for Turkmenistan (no data) and Kazakhstan (2.7 percent), every single one of the countries has a poverty rate of about 20 percent or higher.

For the countries located between the Black and the Caspian Seas, the state of poverty does not look much better. Armenia has a poverty rate of over 30 percent due to political instability, while Georgia experienced a civil war that created a few frozen conflict zones (South Ossetia and Abkhasia). Azerbaijan was spared any wars and has plentiful oil fields from which to grow its economy. Alas, corruption is very high in this country as well.

The countries in Europe, however, have done relatively well. Estonia is rated as the least poor of the countries (despite a 20 percent poverty rate) due to embracing the free market system and capitalizing on electronics. Latvia has also grown its GDP. Although it is poor, it proved itself immensely resistant to the 2009 recession and recovered very quickly while putting itself onto a path to join the EU. Moldova, however, has been suffering for two decades because of political instability, leading to the self-proclaimed state of Transnistria forming within the country. Now though, it is on its way towards EU membership, with a poverty rate of about 10 percent.

Ukraine has actually had a fairly peaceful transition into post-Soviet politics, making the 2000s a prosperous period for Ukraine. Although recent events in the country make it sound like a dangerous place, the poverty rate is in fact at only 6.4 percent. Finally, Belarus, arguably the worst country to live in after the collapse of the USSR. The country has been led by a dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, since its independence. The country has been graded as having the worst human rights of all the countries summarized in this article, making foreign aid questionable. Still, the poverty rate is supposedly at only 5.1 percent.

Overall, such a quick summary of each country cannot completely summarize the state of poverty in former USSR states. Every country is independent, making their political outcomes as varied as any group of countries in the world. What we can learn from this information is that whatever past a country might have had does not predict how it will perform in the future in regards to poverty. Those states that have succeeded in transitioning and becoming more wealthy have set a good example. Now it is up to the oppressive and poor countries to learn from this and grow.

Michal Burgunder

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in EstoniaEstonia, the northern European country on the Baltic Sea, has endured much as a former Soviet republic. While it was a part of the USSR, Estonia had an economy that was for the most part equally beneficial to everyone, and had the status of the most prosperous member of the Soviet Union. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Estonian government put reforms in place that caused an increase in the gap between the rich and the poor. The country has seen improvements in human rights and healthcare as a result of its distance from Russia, but there is still a need to fight the causes of poverty in Estonia.

One in five people live under the poverty line in Estonia. Statistics Estonia reported in 2014 that 21.6 percent of people were considered impoverished and 6.3 percent lived in deep poverty. 8 percent of the poor are employed, and more of these individuals are female than male. In 2015, 21.3 percent lived in poverty and 3.9 percent in deep poverty, suggesting improvements in the distribution of wealth.

A lack of education is one of the causes of poverty in Estonia, and those who have received low levels of education have a 33 percent chance of living in poverty. The elderly are also at risk for an impoverished life. As of 2015, over 40 percent of individuals over 65 lived below the poverty line. These citizens are often dependent on pensions from the government.

The income inequality in Estonia has led to the segregation of cities, including its capital, Tallinn. The rich are moving to certain districts and the poor are living in others. This in itself is not inherently negative, aside from the fact that people are living in poverty, but can lead to conflict when the segregation extends to minority ethnic and racial groups.

While these figures on the causes of poverty in Estonia sound disheartening, the percentage of people living in relative and total poverty have actually decreased from previous years. As of 2014, the total income increased from the year before, and the gap between the rich and poor decreased. With increased foreign aid and governmental efforts to improve education and support for the poor elderly, the former USSR republic will be well on its way to eliminating the causes of poverty in Estonia.

Julia McCartney

Photo: Google

Human Rights in Estonia

Estonia, a European country located near the Baltic Sea, has been a member of the European Union for 13 years. It is a parliamentary republic, but the country still struggles with the consequences of being under Soviet rule until 1991. Estonia has come a long way since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but there are still barriers to full human rights in Estonia as a result of ethnic tensions.

Child statelessness has consistently been a major issue in Estonia. Statelessness is when a person does not possess citizenship in any country. Over six percent of the Estonian population remains stateless, and many of those affected are children. There are several international requirements for statelessness that Estonia has yet to comply with, and they have the tenth largest stateless population in the world even though their overall population is only 1.3 million.

In January 2016, the government made amendments to citizenship laws to make it easier for people to become citizens, but it is still difficult for children between 16 and 18 years old who were not born in Estonia to become Estonian citizens. While statelessness barely impacts the level of education or healthcare these children receive, it can often make them a target of discrimination, causing them to experience unequal human rights in Estonia.

The tension between citizens and the stateless is a result of several factors. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the government enforced citizenship requirements that made almost 40 percent of inhabitants stateless, the majority of whom were originally from Russia. The requirements included an Estonian language exam. Human Rights Watch labeled this extreme process as “discriminatory” and in direct opposition to international agreements. Most of those discriminated against were Russians.

This discrimination is a result of fear. Under the Soviet Union, Estonia suffered from oppression at the hands of Russians. Even today, Estonians still remember the pain caused by the USSR. The president of Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid, has openly expressed worry about Russia’s movements. While these fears are not baseless, Estonians end up projecting them onto their neighbors who are ethnically Russian, causing an environment that challenges the state of human rights in Estonia.

Because statelessness status in Estonia often results in discrimination against Russian-born individuals, the tension between the two ethnic groups is reinforced. With Estonia working towards reforming citizenship laws, Russian people living in Estonia will hopefully become Estonians and the country can fully heal the old scars left by the USSR.

Julia McCartney

Photo: Flickr