Labor market gaps between people of different nationalities have decreased in Estonia, performance in Estonian language proficiency tests has improved and viewer numbers of the ETV+ Russian-language television channel among the Russian-speaking population have increased, a new report shows.
Minister of Culture Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa) on Thursday presented to the government the 2019 report of the development plan "Integrating Estonia 2020".
"Estonian language proficiency is a prerequisite for the integration of people with other first languages into Estonian society. Thus, integration is a purely cultural issue and, as such, is the basis for the stability of our entire society. It is important that it also increases Estonians' sense of security for the future," Lukas said.
"I commend the efforts of all teachers and students in increasing the proficiency in the Estonian language. There are more and more people interested in the language. The reason is also to succeed in the labor market, because the basic needs of any community are still the same -- to have a job and security for tomorrow."
The overview of passing the Estonian language proficiency exams shows that, in 2019, more than 57 percent of the adults who took the Estonian language proficiency exam passed, which is one percentage point higher than a year earlier.
However, the weak Estonian language skills of basic school graduates are still a problem. The results of both the basic school and the upper secondary school state language exam have also improved rather slowly over the years. At the same time, the result of high school graduates has reached the set goal, that is 75 points out of 100.
The section of the report examining labor market gaps shows gaps between Estonians and people of other nationalities decreased in 2019. The share of employed people among people with other first languages increased from 64 percent to 66 percent, and unemployment fell from 7 percent to approximately 6 percent. The unemployment rate of Estonians was 3.8 percent last year.
An important step forward highlighted in the report is the viewer numbers of the Russian-language television channel ETV+ among the Russian-speaking population.
While in 2016, about 14 percent of the Russian-speaking population watched ETV+ for at least 15 minutes a week, the figure was approximately 23 percent last year.
The most listened-to Russian-language radio station is still the public broadcaster's Raadio 4, which was listened to by almost a third of people of other nationalities per week.
The report also notes the number of immigrants, which has remained stable in recent years. Less than 12,000 people a year have received a temporary residence permit or right.
Among the important activities in 2019, the report highlights dozens of activities promoting cooperation between nationalities organized with the help of the Integration Foundation which saw more than 2,600 people take part.
A total of about 14,000 people took part in cooperation projects that help people from different cultural backgrounds to communicate through culture and sport.
However, more than 40,000 people participated in sports and cultural events with a nationwide scope in Ida-Viru County. Last year, Estonian language houses in Tallinn and Narva offered 580 study places and nearly 4,000 people participated in the events organized by the language houses.
The budget of the 2019 implementation plan of the integration plan was €15,440,516.
The government examines the development plan report for the previous year once a year. The results provide an opportunity to maintain flexibility in integration policies and to respond where necessary.
Editor: Helen Wright