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Professors Seek Silver Linings to Migration Trends

Source: Photo: ERR

The people said to be leaving Estonia in droves are mainly from the generation born around the time that the nation regained independence, but the trend should be placed in the proper perspective, said two Tartu professors interviewed by ERR.

“The majority of [current] emigres are young, between 20 and 40 and therein lies the key to understanding the large scope of emigration – at the end of the Soviet era, birth rates were very high and these large generations have arrived at their peregrination period,” said  Tiit Tammaru, a professor of urban and population geography at the University of Tartu, on ETV.

Although 200,000 people are estimated to have left since 1991, only 40,000 of them are ethnic Estonians.

A record number of people left Estonia last year, but the number who returned was also a record, said ETV, and Estonia is said to in Europe's vanguard when it comes to the percentage of people who have lived and worked abroad.

In some ways, because of the proximity of Finland, Estonia is better off than a country such as Lithuania, where 1.3 million have been estimated to be living abroad full-time.

“We are lucky to have Finland so close, because that means most people who work in Finland can still live in Estonia. Lithuania, in comparison, has 1.3 million people or the entire population of Estonia, living abroad permanently. In contrast, our problems are minor,” said Raul Eamets, a macroeconomics professor at the University of Tartu.

The number of Estonians traveling, on a weekly or monthly basis, to work in other nations has in the past decade grown significantly. An estimated 25,000-30,000 people work in Finland, but live in Estonia.

A survey by the Unemployment Insurance Fund and Faktum & Ariko showed that 34 percent of Estonians say they are ready to work abroad.

Eamets, a professor of macroeconomics, said that the prevailing reason for leaving is to seek a higher wage and this group makes up 90 percent of emigres.

“Other reasons like challenging oneself or looking for new callings are far less important, and what is really interesting is the fact that migration studies find relatively few people who claim to be disappointed in Estonia [citing disappointment as the reason for leaving],” added Eamets.

A majority of non-Estonian emigres left the country shortly after re-independence.

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