Poll: Estonian residents don't consider foreign labor a problem

Short-term workers are not subject to Estonia's annual immigration quota.
Short-term workers are not subject to Estonia's annual immigration quota. Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

Fifty-six percent of Estonian residents find that the use of short-term foreign labor in Estonia is necessary, while 37 percent believe that workers from Ukraine, Moldova and other non-EU countries are not needed here, a survey conducted by Kantar Emor for newspaper Postimees shows.

Of the possible reasons why short-term foreign workforce is necessary that were put before respondents by the pollster, the one suggesting that otherwise many jobs would be left unfilled was chosen the most often -- by 29 percent of all respondents. People opposed to short-term foreign workforce most commonly argued that foreigners are taking away the jobs of local people, which was the opinion of 26 percent of those opposed to foreign labor. 

Only seven percent were opposed to foreign labor on the grounds that foreign workers don't fit into Estonian cultural space.

Unlike the minister of the interior Mart Helme (EKRE) whose main argument in favor of restricting foreign agency workforce is taxes lost by the state, residents do not consider this to be a valid argument against foreign labor, with only 0.5 percent of respondents naming unpaid taxes as the reason why Estonia shouldn't be using workforce from abroad.

Support for the use of foreign workforce stands at 66 percent among ethnic Estonians and at 36 percent among residents of other ethnic backgrounds.

By age group, the use of short-term agency workforce is supported the most by people of ages 65-84. People with primary education or basic education, whose jobs agency workers could endanger the most, are more prone to be against the use of short-term foreign labor. Of such people, 37 percent are in favor and 46 percent against the use of foreign short-term workers.

The higher a person's education level, the higher their support is for the use of agency workforce. 

The use of short-term agency workforce is supported by 84 percent of voters of the Reform Party but only by 26 percent of those whose preferred political force is the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE).

Interior Minister Mart Helme, who put forward the plan to restrict the use of foreign labor, is the chairman of EKRE. Of EKRE's coalition partners, support for the use of foreign labor stands at 62 percent among voters of Isamaa and at 53 percent among voters of the Center Party. 

The head of the Estonian Employers' Confederation, Arto Aas, said that the findings of the survey demonstrate an open attitude of Estonian residents.

"Most people understand that they don't have to fear that foreigners will take away their jobs. On the contrary, in order for Estonia to be a good place to live we need both people doing simper jobs as well as specialists from abroad," Aas said.

"In addition to making a contribution to the economy, foreign workers are also making a contribution to the upkeep of the public services of Estonia, because their taxes are paid into our state coffers," he added.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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