There will be a shortage of nearly 7,000 people in the Estonian IT sector in the coming few years, and it is clear that neither the Estonian education system nor businesses will be able to train this number of specialists for the market, Kadi Tamkõrv, head of human resources at software developer Nortal Group, said.
"At the moment, domestic talent moves from one company to another. The IT sector is quite small, one knows where good people work, and the tactics is very much about how to lure good professionals out of other companies, so to speak," Tamkõrv said at a seminar on labor migration held at the central bank on Friday.
She said that such tactics definitely are not sustainable, which is why hiring workers from abroad is very critical in the sector's view.
Triin Ploompuu, CEO of the Federation of Estonian Engineering Industry, said that the shortage of skilled labor is a reality.
She said that in the field of technology it is common for competition to work all over the world, and in the same way Estonian talent is being recruited to other countries.
Martin Villig, co-founder of Bolt, said Estonia currently has an exemption from the quota for bringing in foreign labor that is valid for startups, which should possibly be extended to other sectors with higher export potential and added value.
Villig named as one of the places of concern the current rule under which only a company less than 10 years old qualifies as a startup, which means, for example, that Pipedrive, employer of nearly 500 people, can no longer hire talent from abroad on the same basis.
"It is necessary to bring smart workers to Estonia because schools are not able to train them in such numbers, and retraining opportunities are working to some extent, but they are not enough. If we want to grow our economy, we need to bring in a certain number of specialists from outside," Villig said.
He expressed the hope that if the state is prepared to hold a dialogue with business operators, solutions acceptable for all will be found.
Minister: Denial of labor shortages leads to departure of business, higher taxes
Estonia's ageing population and shortage of skilled labor is forcing businesses to invest abroad, which eventually will result in higher taxes, Minister of Entrepreneurship and Information Technology Andres Sutt said at the seminar.
He said the goal must be that both the head offices of startups and industrial enterprises will remain in Estonia in the future.
"The aim is to find solutions to the growth constraints of businesses, to make their lives easier, so that both our own people and those skilled workers who cannot be found here in sufficient numbers can see Estonia as a country with an attractive and high-quality living environment," the Reform Party minister said.
He added this is the only way to increase national wealth, which will allow Estonia to raise the salaries of teachers, rescuers, police officers and medical staff, and to pay a decent pension.
"Let's stop scaring society with the mass immigration scare - it's a lie and no-one intends it," Sutt said.
The minister said the shortage of skilled labor is acute all over the world and rivalry for skilled workers and talent is fierce.
"It is wrong to think that there's a queue at our door of people who want to work in Estonia. We are competing with our neighbors and other countries of the European Union, as well as with America and Asia," he said.
"It's time to shake off the servant mentality and get used to the idea that we are our own owners and that the people who are allowed to come here to work create value for us," Sutt said.
He said that in five years' time, there will be approximately 32,000 fewer people of working age in Estonia, and if the nation wants public services to be maintained at least at their current level and quality, we will have to choose between being open to skilled labor or keep raising taxes.
Editor: Helen Wright