Unemployment and the prevalence of agricultural and manufacturing jobs which have negatively impacted employees’ health may be factors in the high numbers of disability benefit recipients in Southeastern and Eastern Estonia.
While the number of persons receiving disability benefits between the ages of 15-64 is 66 per thousand in Harju County, the corresponding figure in Põlva County is 222, or more than three times higher, reported ETV news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera."
"This may be due to the fact that in these regions, including in Põlva County, there is a higher prevalence of agricultural and livestock sector, production and manufacturing jobs which have perhaps left their mark on the health of people working [these jobs] in the long term," explained Leonora Lees, senior consultant at the Põlva County Division of the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund (EUIF).
Another reason which nobody was willing to discuss in front of a camera was the fact that in a region where unemployment is high, it is beneficial to have a rated incapacity for work, as this will guarantee at least some degree of social guarantees.
According to Leesi, however, it is also important to note that if an individual with a reduced capacity for work is interested in entering the labor market, suitable jobs are both few and difficult to find.
"[Such work] is impossible to find here," said Rita Paimre, a disability benefit recipient. "If you have a young child and a reduced capacity for work, then generally you just sit at home, unemployed."
27-year-old Paimre has received disability benefits for six years. Due to back problems, she has been assigned a 60-percent disability rating, which means that she may not lift heavy objects, bend down or crouch. Her health issues also affect her daily routine.
Given the circumstances, she considers herself extremely lucky, as at the beginning of February she began working at the clothing store her sister manages.
Editor: Aili Vahtla