Ossinovski: Income inequalities holding back Estonia's development (1)
Income inequalities in Estonia are bigger than in any other EU member state, with regional inequality being especially pronounced, and according to Chairman of the Estonian Social Democratic Party (SDE) Jevgeni Ossinovski, this is holding back the country's development and jeopardizing social cohesion.
"We are one of the smallest countries in Europe, yet we have the biggest regional differences," Ossinovski said in his speech at a meeting of the SDE's extended board on Saturday. "The average wage in Harju County was 862 euros in 2010; the poorest counties of Estonia reached that average only last year. Hence when it comes to income, our regional development gap is as big as five years."
Ossinovski added that while changes in the structure of the economy favor the migration of people to Tallinn, a clever regional policy must be introduced to mitigate this trend. This requires a substantial input by the state to ensure the vitality of county capitals.
As the number of people living outside of major population centers continues to decline, the state has also kept slimming down public services. This creates a spiral of decline, wherein public services are reduced in line with reductions in population numbers, which in its turn undermines the attractiveness of the region as a place to live, Ossinovski said.
He noted that at upon Social Democrats' proposal, the government adopted an integrated approach to the subject of regional services. Plans are to relocate government jobs and some state institutions to places outside of the capital city, as well as to create opportunities for 3,000 people to work remotely.
The extended board of SDE convened at Varemurru, Pärnu County, on Saturday.