The poster for the My Estonian Career Path consultations in January 2022. Photo: minukarjaar.ee
Reede, 14 Jaanuar 2022 19:00
Estonian Life No. 2 2022 - Vincent Teetsov
Since the early 2000s, the Estonian government's attempts to bring more people to Estonia have grown into a hefty bundle of promotional materials. There are websites designed to increase tourism (Visit Estonia) and to increase immigration through avenues of employment (Work in Estonia), business (Invest in Estonia and Startup Estonia), and academia (Study in Estonia and Research in Estonia), to name a few. If you're interested in Estonia, one of these sites will likely have provided you information at one point or another, ensuring you get your facts from an official, direct source.
While these sites contain an abundance of information, there is still a chance you might have missed out on programs that are available to you; ways that prospective and recent immigrants, as well as people who are disconnected from Estonian society, can form a closer connection. This is why the Estonian government seeks to directly communicate with target audiences to prompt action, so no one is left to figure things out alone.
For example, in early January 2022, the Estonian Ministry of Culture's Department of Cultural Diversity sent out a newsletter with a roundup of resources on living in Estonia, shared from all over the web, in English, Russian, and Estonian.
The resource in English from this particular newsletter that was the most useful was the <i>Eesti Töötukassa<i>'s (Unemployment Insurance Fund) site, minukarjäär.ee. Most recently, they have been advertising five group counselling sessions, between the 28th and 31st of January, 2022, about career paths in Estonia. These will take place online, as well as in-person in Tallinn and Jõhvi. If you're looking for a condensed, verbal version of the details found through Work in Estonia, this could be a suitable place to start.
More offerings like this are happening in English than in previous years. For instance, there is an online virtual seminar at the end of January on “Becoming a business owner in Estonia” with career specialist Lemme-Getter Metsala. The seminar runs through services available within the country for supporting the path of an entrepreneur, and tips for success in running your own business.
Another resource shared in the Ministry of Culture's recent communications was a trilingual portal put together by students from Tallinna Ülikool (Tallinn University) for recent immigrants who want to send their children to Estonian schools. The portal is quite basic, but clearly outlines the structure of staff in Estonian schools and their duties, as would be needed to navigate a child's school experience. In this same theme, there is a list of school supplies guardians should expect to purchase for their child, and where one can buy these supplies.
For all those who have ever contemplated a move to Estonia, including Canadians and Americans, these tools will increase the likelihood of integration into Estonian society and decrease the likelihood of dependency on an expat community.
The latest driver behind these communications and tools is a new initiative approved by the government of Estonia in November 2021: the Cohesive Estonia Development Plan 2021-2030. The plan strives to integrate people of other nationalities into Estonian society and help them adapt. Piret Hartman, Undersecretary for Cultural Diversity, contended in a subsequent article that Estonia has been moving towards a “two-way” style of integration, beyond what she argues to have been the “one-way” approach of the 1990s, where a secure place was granted only to those already fluent in the Estonian language.
Hartman writes of the intent to increase the number of job opportunities for other nationalities, to foster closer ties between each individual to Estonia. This is a reason for the aforementioned career counselling sessions.
Principles of integration are to be applied everywhere else, though, in “social policy, education policy, security policy, and cultural events.” That is, understanding and communication between nationalities will not just take place in school and work, but in leisure activities, too.
In a separate report for the <i>Lõimumis/kohanemisprogramm<i> (Integration/Adjustment Program) 2022-2025, the Ministry of Culture shared their measurements of a number of indexes of integration. One index was the “Proportion of people of other nationalities with active Estonian language skills” and the “Proportion of non-Estonian speakers of other nationalities.” In 2020, 41% of respondents were reported to have been fluent in Estonian (encompassing comprehension, speaking, and writing). 8% did not speak Estonian. The Ministry's goal is to increase the rate of fluency to 50% by 2023.
With that in mind, an apt observation was made that new immigrants may take language courses several times, yet still not possess the confidence to speak. Encouraging social practice outside of a classroom setting is necessary then to increase fluency.
The government of Estonia's latest surge of resources goes beyond marketing, instead functioning like an active dialogue with every resident of Estonia, to maximize their potential, across linguistic abilities and cultural backgrounds.
Written by Vincent Teetsov