Finance minister: Attracting foreign talent to Estonia should be encouraged
The temporary employment of foreign top specialists in Estonia should be encouraged as it would help bring world-class know-how to the country and thus also support Estonia's economic growth, Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE) said.
"For many years, Estonian entrepreneurs have complained about a shortage or even lack of top specialists on the Estonian labor market," Helme said. "Due to its small size, Estonia does not train people for very specific professions, but hiring such people may be of key importance for companies' future development."
Hiring top specialists from abroad can turn out to be unreasonably costly, however, he continued, noting that Estonia is competing with countries where salary levels are already higher and support measures exist for entrepreneurs for hiring top specialists.
"We're not talking here about supporting the introduction of cheap or even medium-salary labor, but about the tops of their fields, whose knowledge and skills will benefit us," the minister said. "A support measure will enable companies to develop and thereby increase Estonia's economic growth. If successful, the measure will contribute to the growth of state revenue and the increase of value added generated in Estonia."
The Cabinet gave its approval in principle on Thursday to start paying subsidies in Estonia to entrepreneurs who have recruited highly-paid foreign specialists, depending on the amount of the specialist's labor taxes. An individual who has left Estonia to study or work abroad for an extended period of time may also end up qualifying as such a foreign specialist, pointing toward the possibility of bringing back Estonia's own top specialists.
The specific terms of the support measure will be developed by the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications. The initial task will be to design a support mechanism in such a way that it forms a measure of income, not an expense, for the state budget. Also under consideration is support dependent on the amount of social tax paid from the salary of the foreign specialist as well as a fringe benefit exception on expenses concerning the employee's own as well as their family's relocation, education and medical services.
Similar measures are employed by several other countries, including Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Israel, France, Belgium, Spain, Austria and the Netherlands.
Top specialists can be hired for at least six months, but the support would be limited to a maximum of five years. In addition, qualifying specialists must not have been a tax resident of Estonia during the five years preceding their hiring.
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Editor: Aili Vahtla