Following the financial crisis of 2008-2010, the gap between rich and poor reached a record high in Estonia. While the well-off quickly recovered after the crisis years, the poor have had difficulty reaching the income levels they had before the crisis.
It is especially the pensioners who find it difficult. In 2015, four out of ten pensioners lived in relative poverty. They then had a disposable monthly income that was below the equivalent of SEK 4,000. The proportion of the population that lived in absolute poverty in the same year, corresponding to less than SEK 1,900 a month, had halved in two years to about four per cent.
- Countryaah Official Site: Official statistics for population in Estonia, including population growth, density, and estimation in next 50 years.
Poverty is more widespread in the Russian-speaking minority than among the Estonians. In northeastern Estonia, where many Russians immigrated during the Soviet era (1944–1991), difficult social conditions were created when heavy industry and military production were shut down after independence. Instead, the market economy and economic growth have primarily benefited the Tallinn area.
Poverty is also clearly linked to a low level of education. Many older Russians are poorly Estonian and have fallen outside the new knowledge-based industry. At the same time, there are plenty of successful Russian-speaking entrepreneurs, and young Russians are well-educated.
Well developed security system
Estonia has a relatively well-developed social protection network. The social insurance system includes, among other things, child allowance, parental benefit, health insurance, old-age pension, unemployment benefit and social security contributions. Allowance levels are low, with the exception of parental allowance, which is intended to increase the birth rate (see Population and Language). The low retirement age from the Soviet era has been gradually increased to 63 years and it will be raised further to 65 years until 2026.
Access to healthcare is good with district hospitals, specialist care and well-developed outpatient care. There are relatively many doctors, but wages are low and many doctors and nurses have applied to the Nordic countries and the rest of the EU for jobs with higher incomes.
The health situation has improved significantly in recent decades, following the social difficulties of the 1990s that led to high child mortality, high abortion rates and high death rates, especially for middle-aged men. The latter was largely explained by alcohol problems and suicide.
The social problems in northeastern Estonia led to heroin addiction, which in turn caused a rapid spread of the HIV virus HIV in the early 2000s. Estonia has since had the highest proportion of registered HIV infected in the EU, just over one percent in the age group of 15-49 years. However, the discovery of double registration a few years ago makes the figure uncertain.
The Esters can be described as individualists. Many ester consider themselves sent to lead and do not want to be led. Power is often viewed with suspicion. At the same time, society has long been hierarchical, where age and experience have been of great importance. During the interwar period, the title of head of state and head of government was the oldest in the country.
The Soviet era hardened the social patterns and when the occupation ended in 1991, some old social structures were dissolved. Experience was partly perceived as a burden associated with the Soviet system, and a young western-oriented generation had great influence in politics, business and the mass media.
Estonian self-confidence in independent Estonia has contributed to a strong political self-awareness. “Welcome to the world’s best country!” salutes Estonia Chamber of Commerce on its website.
The family has traditionally played a very important role in Estonia, where it has been common for several generations to live together. The atheist Soviet system, followed by a turbulent social transformation with an influx of liberal Western values, has changed a lot of old family patterns. Nuclear families and even large families remain important in the countryside, but among younger ester, the marriage rate is low and the divorce rates are high. Birth rates are low and families are small.
Fewer women than men work professionally, but among teachers, women dominate large (with 83 percent in 2015). The women usually double work and bear the main responsibility for the housework. Young women are mainly found in the service profession as a trade, while men dominate in corporate management and among other decision makers. There are a lot of women in politics, but they are underrepresented in parliament and government.
Traditionally, it was common for grandparents to look after the children. It still exists, but day care centers are now well developed.
During the Soviet era, homosexuality was prohibited by law. The ban was lifted in Estonia in 1992, but the tolerance of sexual minorities is still low. Partnerships between people of the same sex were allowed in 2016 and gay couples were given the right to adopt.
FACTS – SOCIAL CONDITIONS
Infant Mortality: 2 per 1000 births (2018)
Percentage of HIV infected: 0.9 percent (2018)
Proportion of HIV infected among young women
0.1 percent (2018)
Proportion of HIV infected among young men: 0.1 percent (2018)
Proportion of population with access to clean water: 99.6 percent (2015)
Proportion of the population having access to toilets: 99.1 percent (2017)
Public expenditure on health care as a percentage of GDP: 6.5 percent (2015)
Public expenditure on health care per person: US $ 1,185 (2016)
Proportion of women in parliament: 27 percent (2018)