If a single mother decides to go work in Finland and leave her kids behind in Estonia, she's not required to notify the authorities. Only if and when a child gets into trouble do the police and social workers learn about the situation. A new study has now shed light on how many such children are living in Estonia and what effect this has on them.
The study, titled "Families with parents working abroad and children living in Estonia: Best practices and potential threats", was commissioned by the Ministry of Social Affairs and conducted by the University of Tartu's Centre for Applied Social Sciences (CASS). It focused on families where both parents or a single parent works abroad and the children live in Estonia. The number of such families is estimated at around 650. They are most often families with a single mother.
The majority of the interviewed parents work in the Nordic countries, most often in Finland. However, Russian-speakers and people from other ethnic minorities are more likely to be in employment in Russia.
Such commuting parents tend to be 35-44 years of age. They usually have a high school education, although many also hold higher degrees. They are usually skilled or manual laborers, but the high number of specialists is also noteworthy. The largest number are employed in the building industry (18.6 percent), followed by administration and support services (15.1 percent) and the manufacturing industry (10.2 percent). The survey also showed that people most often choose to work abroad for financial reasons.
The survey results show that children whose parents are working abroad are less satisfied with their lives than those children whose parents stay at home. The study also confirmed that the absence of the mother causes stronger emotional reactions than the absence of the father. The children feel more lonely than their peers, feelings of abandonment, lack of security and low self-esteem are frequent.
At the same time, it was revealed that prolonged separation can also have some positive effects. Relations between the parents and their children can improve as more value is placed on the time spent together.
According to the latest census (2011), 24,907 Estonian citizens work abroad.
Editor: M. Himma, M. Oll