About 10 percent of Estonians live with disabilities

The implementation of the work ability reform has been bumpy and left a number of people without the income of work incapacity pension payments.
The implementation of the work ability reform has been bumpy and left a number of people without the income of work incapacity pension payments. Source: Martin Dremljuga/ERR

The percentage of persons with disabilities living in Estonia was 10.4 percent 10 years ago, and it has since decreased to 9.1 percent. In Põlva County nearly one-fifth of the population lives with a disability.

The number of persons living with disabilities varies considerably by region. This proportion is higher in Põlva County and in southeastern Estonia and lower in Harju County, for example.

Kristi Rekand, advisor to the Estonian Chamber of Disabled People (Eesti Puuetega Inimeste Koda), told ERR that the disparity between counties could be due to variations in the frequency of disability applications, the age of the population and differences in health conditions.

The principle that everyone in Estonia should receive help that suits their needs is more important than statistical indicators, she said.

The availability of state services may be greater and more uniform in terms of quality; however, the capacities of local governments vary significantly.

The proportion of persons living with disabilities has fallen marginally during the last decade. For example, in the case of the working-age population, this could be explained by the Work Capacity Reform that came into force in 2017, Rekand said.

One of the goals of the reform was to have at least 50 percent of persons with partial capacity for work to be employed. "The goal was to give people a second chance, to reintegrate into society those who we had forgotten or deemed incapable, to see if they actually have the ability and interest," Rekand explained.

"Unquestionably, the impediment is that many people can only work flexibly or part-time. However, there are still insufficient part-time employment opportunities in Estonia: there are insufficient flexible occupations that would be suitable for a large number of unemployed people."

Ulla Saar, deputy secretary-general of labor at the Ministry of Social Affairs, emphasized that in the context of the work capacity reform, we were able to engage more than 100,000 person with reduced work capacity by 2020.

In response to Rekand's concern about regional disparity, Saar said that the worry is appropriate: "Jobs are not always there, where the greatest number of people with diminished working capacity reside. And, of course, the question is, 'How can we facilitate this: how can we promote flexible working and distance working, and how can the government support suitable job creation?"

Nonetheless, Saar noted the overall success of the work capacity reform. "The increase in disability pensioners and incapacity benefit recipients has slowed. People have more access to the labor market, their ability to adapt to the labor market improves and the state saves money," Saar said. While some of these objectives were realized to a greater extent than others, the overall goal was nonetheless met, she said. 

According to Statistics Estonia, there are approximately 124,000 persons with disabilities living in Estonia.

Rekand and Saar said that they do not believe there are many people who have illegally registered for disability payments in order gain an additional source of income. The primary reason is, rather, that many Estonians live with disabilities and have chronic health issues. "And if my economic livelihood is also low, and I cannnot afford support services or vitamins to maintain my health from degrading or to avoid additional health problem from developing, then I am afraid that is the situation, regrettably," Rekand said.


Follow ERR News on Facebook and Twitter and never miss an update!

Editor: Kristina Kersa

Hea lugeja, näeme et kasutate vanemat brauseri versiooni või vähelevinud brauserit.

Parema ja terviklikuma kasutajakogemuse tagamiseks soovitame alla laadida uusim versioon mõnest meie toetatud brauserist: