Study: Large-scale labor immigration not necessary in Estonia

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The main building at the University of Tartu (TÜ). Source: Andres Tennus/University of Tartu

There is no need for large-scale immigration to supplement the workforce in Estonia but integration and language learning pose problems, a new study shows.

"The backdrop for the study is the migration turnaround: Estonia is no longer an emigration country that one would like to leave, but an immigration country that one wants to go to for residency, work and study," said Tiit Tammaru, professor of urban and population geography at the University of Tartu who carried out the study for the Estonian Research Council.

"The migration turnaround shows that Estonia's development has been fast, our attractiveness has increased and we can take pride in this as a country," the professor said.

Tammaru noted that increased immigration also brings worries with it, as problems of integration related to both earlier and new immigration need to be addressed simultaneously. 

It appears from the findings of the study that there is no need in Estonia for large-scale immigration of labor, but integration and learning are challenges.

The recommendation of the authors of the survey is that the current quota system regulating work-related migration should be preserved for those seeking a permanent residence and work permit in Estonia. The size of the quota should be flexible and depend on the country's economic situation and capacity for integration. A prerequisite for it is the application of a science-based monitoring system that would continuously gauge the adaptation of those who have arrived here already.

According to the report, work-related migration brings more money into the Estonian state budget than it takes out, and this is more so the case the higher the education level of the person who migrates. 

The complexity of the matter lies in work-related migration being accompanied by family migration, the impacts of which are more complex, the study found. 

For successful coping in society it is important that permanent residents of Estonia are fluent in the Estonian language. To enable the entry of people into the labor market, adult new immigrants must be provided with state-financed courses of the Estonian language that help the learner to successfully cross the communication threshold. For this, a comprehensive solution of language learning and supporting activities must be devised that takes into account the needs of specific target groups. 

The survey was carried out by the University of Tartu, Tallinn University, the CentAR OÜ center of applied research, OÜ Positium LBS and the Praxis center of political studies. The study was financed by the Estonian Research Council via the RITA program using money from the  European Regional Development Fund and the Estonian state budget.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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