Analysis: Over half of those with partial work ability currently employed
According to the newly published results of an assessment of Estonia's nationwide work ability reform commissioned by the Ministry of Social Affairs, 61 percent of people with an officially determined partial ability to work were employed in 2020, exceeding the reform's goal of bringing half of people with a partial ability to work to the labor market.
Employment increased approximately 5 percent faster among people with a partial ability to work than on average compared across gender, age and location lines, according to a Ministry of Social Affairs press release.
According to the assessment, 52 percent of the target group is in favor of the expectation that people with a reduced capacity to work be expected to work, study or seek employment; this indicates an increase from just one third in 2017.
The results also indicated that both the incomes and personal assessments of one's ability to cope financially improved among people with a reduced capacity to work.
"The central point of the work ability reform was the inclusion of people with a reduced ability to work in the job market in order to improve people's quality of life on one hand and increase labor supply in Estonia on the other," Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo (Reform) said. "The success [of this reform] was predicated on a shift in attitudes among people themselves with a reduced capacity to work, employers as well as society more broadly, and we can see by now that this has paid off."
According to the ministry, employers likewise value the potential of people with a reduced capacity to work.
"In an environment of growing labor shortages, increasing employment is a key issue for our economy," said Arto Aas, CEO of the Estonian Employers' Confederation (ETK). "The inclusion of people with a reduced capacity to work on the labor market creates more opportunities for employers, enriches the labor market as well as increases the standard of living of the people of Estonia. For employers, this is a priority issue which needs to continually be addressed."
Riisalo said that currently in the works as the next step are various activities for preventing permanent loss of work capacity in those on long-term sick leave, such as the enabling of adapted work while on sick leave. Likewise planned is the further integration of social, employment and health services, which will help people with a reduced capacity to work more easily navigate access to help.
According to the ministry, the main goal of the work ability reform was to shift the focus from incapacity to work to the assessment and application of existing work capacity; several targeted labor market measures were also established for people with a reduced capacity to work.
The primary objective was to help people with a reduced capacity to work increasingly enter the labor market and to ensure the financial sustainability of the support system for people with a reduced capacity to work. In order to develop an environment that is conducive to working, efforts must continue to reshape widespread societal attitudes toward people with a reduced capacity to work, the report noted.
An assessment of Estonia's work ability reform was conducted by Turu-uuringute AS, the Estonian Center for Applied Research CentAR, Estonian think tank Praxis and the Center for Applied Anthropology of Estonia (CAAE).
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Editor: Aili Vahtla