Digest: New population minister wants return to family, religious values

Minister of Population Affairs Riina Solman (Isamaa).
Minister of Population Affairs Riina Solman (Isamaa). Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The Estonian state won't go snooping around people's bedrooms, or telling them how many children to have, or whether to have children at all, Minister of Population Riina Solman (Isamaa) says. But it wants to nudge people towards having more children, by implementing policies that support large families.

"Why should people have to choose between having money and having children?" Solman asked in a speech she held at the Money or Children conference, a gathering that took place on May 6 on the occasion of upcoming Mother's Day in Estonia.

"Money doesn't guarantee happiness. If people start to only value their wealth and careers, then our society would turn into an Excel sheet. Our society should first and foremost value family."

Riina Solman has been a member of national-conservative Isamaa since 2007. Solman encourages women in politics, but is also an outspoken supporter of religion and traditional family values. To ensure the preservation of Estonian society, Solman thinks that the state has to work to boost the number of children in the average Estonian family.

But why does having a lot of children matter? According to Solman, there is research that indicates that most Estonians would actually like to have more than two children. Moreover, children would actually make the state richer: "It turns out that in the future, as we get old, the more children we have, the more money we have, since most of our pensions are paid by our children and grandchildren," Solman says.

This, according to the minister, is why one of the state's main goals needs to be to support large families and make it easier for them to raise children. Such benefits have already raised the probability of families having a third child by 25 percent, the minister says.

Riina Solman's political agenda is also a reflection of the policies that her party stands for. In their campaign platform for the 2019 general election, Isamaa promised to work towards a continuously increasing birth rate. "By introducing a mothers' pension and by giving it the same importance as the salary compensation paid during maternity leave, we will not only raise the value of childbirth, but also add value to the upbringing of children," the party stated.

In her speech at the conference, the minister also shared her vision for the future of Estonia and Estonian society. "I really want us to live better than we do now. I don't want to see us replaced by immigrants. I want that in the future, everyone who left in search of a better life will come back. A better life doesn't necessarily mean having more money. Fresh air, a good state of health, and love — these are the things that can't be measured in any currency."

In Solman's view, these things even override basic conditions of plenty of parents, like being able to offer a child stable living conditions. Children don't care what their parents' jobs are, or where they live: all they care about is love, Solman said.

Alongside family values, Solman is also a strong supporter of Christian democracy, and not only wants to ensure religious education in Estonia, but also a Christian rehabilitation for the country on the whole. According to Solman, such a rehabilitation would enable Estonia to once again produce what she sees as exemplary citizens, family members, and workers.

However, according to a 2018 study conducted by London's St Mary's University, a mere 19 percent of Estonians aged 16 to 29 describe themselves as Christian, while an overwhelming 80 percent said they are not religious at all.

Editor: Ksenia Fadina, Dario Cavegn

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