Unemployment office: Most unemployed in unskilled labor, customer service

Employee stocking shelves at a Maxima grocery store.
Employee stocking shelves at a Maxima grocery store. Source: Merilin Pärli/ERR

Unemployment in Estonia has decreased on year, but increased compared with the end of 2021. According to Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund (EUIF) data, the highest number of registered unemployed are currently in the unskilled labor and customer service categories.

A total of 39,600 people were registered unemployed in Estonia in the first quarter of 2022, down 9,200 on year, but up 3,300 compared with the fourth quarter of 2021.

EUIF data also indicates that the number of registered unemployed increased somewhat in the first quarter of this year. As of January, there were more than 44,000 registered unemployed in Estonia; by the end of the quarter, that figure had increased to more than 46,000.

The two sets of numbers are slightly different due to differences in accounting, however both Statistics Estonia and EUIF figures indicate that unemployment was much higher in the first quarter of 2021.

"If war refugees [from Ukraine] had not been added, then unemployment would have probably remained on a downward trend," explained Katrin Liivamets, head of the Jobseeker's and Employers' Services Department at the EUIF.

"In that sense, I'd say that it's rather stable, with moderate growth," she continued. "There were 55,000 registered unemployed during the same period last year — meaning a lot more — and this was also the period with the highest number of unemployed during the COVID-19 crisis."

The greatest number of registered unemployed are in the unskilled labor and customer service categories.

"The sectors with the most unemployed people are those where a lot of people typically work, i.e. customer service and retail," Liivamets said. "But there is also administrative assistance, and cleaning services."

Job vacancies are highest in these same fields as well. The Maxima chain of grocery stores and supermarkets, for example, would like to hire 180 new people.

"We need male labor, of course, but unfortunately there is less male than female labor to be had," said Lea Kimber, head of human resources at Maxima Eesti. "We'd hire cashiers, we'd hire production workers, overnight inventory clerks, transport workers."

Following the launch of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in late February, Maxima immediately advertised that it would hire 300 war refugees from Ukraine.

"There have been some 670 candidates since March, and there are other employers as well, of course," Kimber said, adding that the refugees from Ukraine, like anyone else, will opt for the job offering more favorable conditions. "Thus far, we have employed 147 Ukrainians across Estonia."

According to Liivamets, a quarter of those refugees from Ukraine who have contacted the EUIF have found work.

"A total of some 1,500 war refugees from Ukraine have found work through us," she said. "Overall, 6,100 of them have been registered with us. People are generally still taking their being here as temporary, and just want to find some kind of work that will provide them with income."


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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