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, 21.1 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. Not everyone in the country is covered by public health insurance. Although pregnant women, children and young adults up to the age 19, old age pensioners and students automatically qualify for Estonia’s public health care, others must work for an employer that pays a social tax to the national government in order to qualify for public health insurance. Otherwise, barring any disabilities, the citizens must purchase their health care privately (or pay a social tax to the national government if they are self-employed).
  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 Estonia

Estonia 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 Estonia

Estonia, 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 EstoniaEstonia, 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

Combating Common Diseases in EstoniaEstonia, a European country that borders the Baltic Sea, was a member of the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991. In 2004, Estonia joined the EU and had been run as a parliamentary republic ever since. With a population of a little over 1.3 million, the country has a life expectancy of 73 years for men and 82 years for women.

Over the past few decades, Estonia has built its healthcare system from the ground up. The increase in accessibility and quality of healthcare has helped to combat common diseases in Estonia.

Cardiovascular disease has by far the highest mortality rate in Estonia, causing 54 percent of deaths. Cancer is the second deadliest, claiming 21.5 percent. An unhealthy diet and high systolic blood pressure are the two most fatal risks in Estonia, each containing over twice the risk of the third greatest risk. Most common diseases in Estonia can be avoided with a well-balanced diet and consistent exercise.

There are also common communicable diseases in Estonia that can cause much harm, especially if left untreated. Afflictions like diarrhea and lower respiratory diseases comprise over 62 percent of fatal communicable diseases. HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis also pose a threat to the mortality rate, causing 26 percent of deaths due to communicable diseases. Hepatitis A, Typhoid Fever, Hepatitis E, Malaria, Dengue Fever, and Rabies also pose a risk. While these diseases are not common diseases in Estonia, citizens and visitors should still be wary and take all possible precautions.

Tuberculosis has been a topic of concern for Estonians, especially because of its attachment to HIV. Estonia has one of the highest numbers of patients suffering from both tuberculosis and HIV. Thankfully, the government has committed to attacking tuberculosis, and the country is on track to reduce the incidence of tuberculosis.

Estonia’s healthcare system provides health insurance for 95 percent of the population to combat these diseases. It is ranked a higher quality system than that of Great Britain by the Health Consumer Powerhouse (HCP). The HCP also ranked Estonia first as the most cost-effective healthcare program. With the Estonian government continuing to make consistent improvements in healthcare, deaths caused by common diseases should continue to decrease.

Julia Mccartney

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Estonia
While the water quality in Estonia is good when it comes to tap and bottled water, the quality of the country’s groundwater faces threats from pollutants.

Here are some key facts about the water quality in Estonia:

According to a 2014 study, researchers found that the average Estonian consumed 45 liters of bottled water each year.

Astrid Saava, an emeritus professor at the University of Tartu Department of Public Health, said that in Estonia, bottled water and tap water are fairly similar in respect to their quality.

“There is no significant difference between bottled drinking water and tap water in Estonia,” Saava said. “Both originate from underground water pumped through artesian wells. It’s just that the bottled water costs 500 to 1,000 times more.”

For this reason, Savaa added, it is often more cost effective to forgo purchasing bottled water.

A slight taste difference between tap and bottled water might be observed in Tallinn, where tap water is sourced from Lake Ülemiste. Some have noted that water originating from the source may taste “inferior” to that of underground water in the region, according to the article.

Despite tap and bottled water being similar in quality in Estonia, for those living in the region it is recommended that they purchase bottled water if they think their countryside source may be polluted.

According to a study conducted by Tallinn University of Technology and the National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics, surface waters are often subject to pollution. The study focused on drained peat areas, or swathes of organic wetlands, where there are significant stores of nitrogen.

In Estonia, eutrophication, or the presence of abnormally high concentrations of nutrients from watersheds, is one of the “most important problems for surface waters” in the region, according to the study.

Researchers found that past evaluations underestimated the impact of soil amelioration (supplements added to improve soil quality) on the intensive pollution of surface water. Previous evaluations attributed pollution and eutrophication to fertilizers and livestock in the area. According to the study there is little evidence to back this theory.

In Estonia, the management of freshwater sources and their protection falls under the umbrella of the Ministry of the Environment, which coordinates the Decision-Making Environmental protection.

The country’s water department specifically overseas the condition and sustainable exploitation of the groundwater and other bodies of water in the region. Estonia’s water policy follows that of the European Union.

Estonia in particular enforces several legal provisions that support sustainable development, according to a release from the United Nations. Such policies focus on aspects such as the quality of the water in the river basins.

The water quality in Estonia near inland water bodies and coastal sea improved over the past ten years, according to the National Environmental Monitoring Programme.

Despite these improvements, rivers, like several that flow into the Gulf of Finland, are in need of improvement with respect to water quality.

Leah Potter

Photo: Flickr

10 Things You Should Know About Estonian Refugees
Tucked away in the far-eastern corner of Europe, bordering Russia, lies the small Baltic State of Estonia. It may not be the most well-known member of the European Union, but nonetheless, Estonia is proving a valuable asset in the EU’s response to the growing refugee crisis.

Here are 10 things you should know about refugees in Estonia:

  1. Refugees in Estonia primarily come from Syria, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Russia and Georgia.
  2. Estonia has not received as many applications for asylum as other EU member states, but the number of applicants is steadily growing. As of March 2016, Estonia had accepted 107 quota refugees–87 from Greece and 20 from Turkey. Estonia has also agreed to take in about 500 people over the next two years.
  3. Estonia has one of the best welfare support systems in Europe. Estonia currently offers every refugee free housing and income support for two years. Refugees also receive benefits including language courses, translators and assistance in finding employment. They receive the same unemployment and welfare benefits available to Estonian citizens, as long as they remain in Estonia.
  4. Refugees in Estonia have one of the best advocates in the EU, Riina Kionka, the chief foreign policy advisor to the president of the European Council. She is passionate about the refugee crisis, as her mother was an Estonian refugee that came to the U.S., where Kionka was born. She stated that she believes Estonians should be at the forefront of helping refugees, “given Estonia’s history, with so many of its compatriots having been welcomed by other countries as refugees after the second World War and during the Soviet occupation.”
  5. Refugees come to Estonia mainly through relocation programs, not resettlement. Estonia and Italy are currently negotiating a relocation agreement, in which Estonia will take on some of the influx of refugees surging into Italy. This agreement has been discussed for several months, but predicted to close soon. Estonia is already relocating refugees from Greece and Turkey through a similar agreement.
  6. Estonia’s retention rate of refugees is one of the lowest in all of Europe. As of May 2017, more than 25 percent of the 150 refugees taken in by Estonia had left the country. Most refugees coming in do not choose Estonia; the EU assigned them to the country in an effort to spread the number of refugees across Europe. Many are disappointed with the cold climate and discouraged by the low-paying jobs they secure, which often contrast deeply with what they had in their home countries.
  7. The greatest challenge refugees in Estonia face is their own expectations. Many refugees, especially the ones relocated from other EU countries, find themselves discontent with life in Estonia. Analysts from Estonia’s relocation program trace this dissatisfaction to social media, as most of the refugees “spent the past year stuck in Greece…seeing the successes of refugees who landed in Germany or Sweden through the filters of Facebook and Instagram.”
  8. Refugees living in Estonia are among the most welcomed in all of Europe. Anti-migrant attitudes are growing dangerously fast across the rest of Europe, but there has been little backlash in Estonia. Seeing as how the country was deeply divided over the refugee crisis only a few years ago, this signals a great shift in the country’s mindset. Communities and families alike are coming together to try and make refugees feel welcome, helping the newcomers furnish their apartments and even giving out winter clothes to shield refugees from Estonia’s colder climate.
  9. Refugees living in Estonia have some of the best chances at integrating into the society of their host country. The government has spread its refugees all across the country, especially to sparsely populated rural areas, in order to give refugees a better chance at immersion. Children are immediately enrolled in schools, and adults receive help learning Estonian and English and coaching on finding jobs. The goal of the resettlement process is to empower refugees to support themselves and no longer need government benefits.
  10. If the refugees can’t come to Estonia, Estonians are going to them. The Estonian Refugee Council has substantially increased its efforts to reach refugees, especially in the Luhansk, Donetsk and Zaporizhia oblasts of Ukraine. In April alone, they delivered hundreds of humanitarian aid packages consisting of food, hygiene products and blankets. Estonians also increased support for these efforts, as the ERC gathered 34,876 euros by the end of April 2017 in donations alone.

Though there is still work to do, Estonia is setting a strong example for the world by warmly welcoming refugees. Estonia’s approach to the refugee crisis will contribute significantly to resolving the refugee crisis and will hopefully inspire its EU counterparts to implement similar tactics.

Sydney Cooney

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Estonia
Poverty in Estonia? Since the country regained its independence in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Estonia has been relatively economically successful. In fact, it emerged as an economic pioneer among former Soviet states in the late 1990s.

The country takes good care of their 1.3 million citizens. Life expectancy for men is 70 years of age, while life expectancy for women hovers around 80 years. This puts Estonia in a fairly good position in relation to the rest of the modern world. In the wake of the Financial Crisis of 2008, Estonia has been able to almost fully restore its economy.

 

Poverty in Estonia: Recovering from the 2008 Crisis

 

During the period following the Financial Crisis, income inequality reached record highs. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) 2016 report shows that while the wealthy bounced back quickly from the crisis, the wages of those below the relative poverty line have yet to return to what they were pre-crisis. Despite decreases in unemployment, every fifth person in Estonia lives in relative poverty. More than one-quarter of Estonia’s wealth is hoarded by the richest members of the country.

The absolute poverty rate is highest in children, young people and pre-retirement age people. Education level significantly affects the chance of becoming impoverished in Estonia. Among those who had access to only lower education, every third existed in the poorest demographic and only one-twelfth existed in the largest income quintile. Thus, better education is a prerequisite for the eradication of poverty in Estonia.

However, the most notable aspect of poverty in Estonia is not how it effects, but who it effects. Those who are most at risk for poverty are pensioners. Pensioners are often older citizens who need pensions. Thus, the highest cases of poverty exist within the elderly community. In 2013, nearly 32 percent of Estonian citizens above the age of 65 lived in relative poverty.

These are all problems that may be remedied with internal drive and external aid. Some solutions that have been posed include The Strategy of Children and Families and increasing benefits for elderly citizens. Meanwhile, those who are not citizens can aid the poor in Estonia by supporting such acts as the “Education for All Act” which ensures funding is allotted in areas where education deficit remains a problem globally.

Kayla Provencher

Photo: Flickr