Memo: Moving state jobs away from Tallinn proving challenging

The Estonian Folk Culture Centre, now based in Viljandi, is one of the state institutions whose headquarters were moved away from Tallinn.
The Estonian Folk Culture Centre, now based in Viljandi, is one of the state institutions whose headquarters were moved away from Tallinn. Source: Olev Kenk/ERR

Moving state jobs away from the capital has had positive as well as negative consequences. Hiring people outside Tallinn has proven difficult, especially as plenty of specialists left when their department moved, a new memorandum of the minister of public administration shows.

The memorandum, introduced to the government on Thursday, states that the aim to move 1,000 state jobs away from Tallinn to Estonia's regional centers has not quite been reached, with 830 jobs relocated as of February 2019.

Some ministries very successful, others failed

The list of authorities that managed to follow plans to better distribute government jobs around the country is led by the Ministry of Social Affairs, which so far has moved 197 positions away from Tallinn.

Next is the Ministry of the Interior with 129. Some state institutions have failed to reach even half of the goal set, including the Ministry of Justice, which of a planned 100 managed to relocate just 19 jobs as of early this year.

The most difficult task is to relocate the headquarters of institutions, the memo states. This includes the Estonian Folk Culture Centre, a foundation now based in Viljandi tasked with supporting the survival and evolution of Estonian folk culture and participating in the process of developing and carrying out cultural policy, the Private Forest Centre in Rapla, founded to raise the competence of private forest owners and promoting environmentally friendly and effective private forestry, the Integration Foundation in Narva, and, since 2018, the Estonian Geological Service in Rakvere.

Of 830 jobs that were relocated, 25 percent are now in Tartu, 14 percent in Ida-Viru County, and 61 percent in various other cities and towns elsewhere in Estonia.

Positive effects include balanced job markets, local economies

The memo stresses the positive effect of the program of creating high-qualification jobs outside the capital, which it claims has improved the diversity of local job markets. Another positive development is that dozens of families have moved back to the countryside like this, and that telecommuting and its integration in the work of government has improved.

All of this has contributed to a better economic balance among Estonia's regions, the memo states.

Still, there are challenges as well. The program has influenced employees, their organizations as a whole, but also partners and interest groups. These include difficulties to find qualified staff as well as high one-off costs, the memo says.

Number of state employees in Tallinn to be reduced to 42 percent of total

The government plans to move another 1,000 jobs away from Tallinn between 2019 and 2023. The ultimate aim is to have no more than 42 percent of the state's total number employees working in Tallinn by then.

A comment by the state's real estate management company, RKAS, adds that at current there are premises available around the country to accommodate a total of 428 additional state employees. With planned renovation work in various locations completed, by 2023 this number should increase to 743, though this will consume another €22 million.

Meanwhile, programs to find new premises for government institutions continue, as plenty of the state's older real estate is simply too big and too expensive to maintain to be a viable option, the memo states.

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Editor: Dario Cavegn

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