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Analysis reveals ethnic inequality of Estonian labour market


An analysis commissioned by the Integration and Migration Foundation ‘Our People’ (MISA) and carried out by the Institute of Baltic Studies has examined the labour market surveys conducted in Estonia over the last 15 years with the aim of charting the factors influencing the linguistic and ethnic segregation of the Estonian labour market. The meta-analysis was commissioned as part of the CROSS project of the INTERREG Central Baltic programme 2014-2020.

“The labour market wields significant influence on social integration,” explained Marianna Makarova, the Head of research development at MISA. “It’s the main determinant of people’s socio-economic position. Also, the workplace is very important as a communication environment and a platform for social contact, since people spend the majority of their waking hours at work. Various studies in the past – including integration monitoring – have highlighted a number of underlying aspects of inequality on the labour market, offering a variety of explanations for factors causing inequality and potential solutions to them. This consolidated analysis brings all of those results together and gives us a more comprehensive overview of the issue of ethnicity in the context of the labour market, which is something that can be used in making strategic policy recommendations as well as in planning practical activities.”

Kristjan Kaldur, a member of the management board of the Institute of Baltic Studies, says the results confirm that the Estonian labour market continues to be segregated along ethnic lines. “Compared to Estonians, people from other ethnic backgrounds still find themselves in a weaker position on the Estonian labour market,” he revealed. “This is expressed in a number of ways, from lower levels of participation at labour market to higher rates of unemployment and differences in salaries.”

Kaldur says that there are many reasons for ethnic inequality and that analysing the labour market on the basis of each one and trying to find links between them is very complicated. “That’s because it depends on a great number of factors and their cumulative influence, which is not something that can always be taken into account in analysis,” he explained. “Preconditions for inequality may begin  from early childhood, such as in kindergartens that are linguistically segregated, or be the result of other factors and choices made while acquiring education and on the path to joining the labour market. For example, if you look at the journey from kindergarten to university, far fewer people from other ethnic backgrounds make it all the way to higher education compared to Estonians. This has a knock-on effect on their entry to the labour market and how well they cope once they’re there.”

In the course of the analysis all of the key risk factors examined as aspects affecting the labour market situation in previous studies were identified and collocated. Some of the main risk factors are limited Estonian language skills, choices in regard to education, culturally informed attitudes and others, including limited mobility, gender stereotypes and structural factors like regional differences and divergent information fields. “What’s remarkable is the number of people who look for work via their friends and family – 30% among Estonians and as much as 40% among people from other ethnic backgrounds,” Marianna Makarova noted. “That shows how important social contact and networks are when it comes to your position on the labour market.”

Kristjan Kaldur adds that the labour market is a broad-ranging subject and that there is no universal solution to all of its problems. “Speaking decent Estonian might help you find a job, but a successful career and professional advancement won’t necessarily depend on language skills as much as it will on other factors,” he said.

The results of the analysis will be taken into account by MISA in creating, as part of the CROSS project, a mentoring programme for less integrated permanent residents of Estonia who are unemployed. The programme is based on the FIKA integration programme devised by Finnish project partner Luckan.

Recommendations were also made for follow-up labour market surveys that will enable an even more comprehensive overview to be gained of the nature of and situation on the Estonian labour market and measures to be devised to improve the situation.

The meta-analysis can be reviewed here.

MISA’s ‘Cross-border cooperation on mentoring and peer support for immigrants’ project will last until the end of 2017. It is being financed by the INTERREG Central Baltic programme 2014-2020 of the European Regional Development Fund.

For further information please contact:

Marianna Makarova
Head of Research, MISA
Telephone: +372 659 9853