Estonia reports substantial increases to life satisfaction and happiness levels over the last fifteen years and optimism for the future is high with 69% feeling optimistic for their children’s or grandchildren’s future - above the EU average of 57%. Coupled with this, the perceived quality of public services has improved in recent years with childcare and public transport seeing the greatest increases in perceived quality ratings, as reported in the 2016 European Quality of Life Survey.
Due to strong economic growth over the last decade, Estonia’s labour market has become one of the best performers in the EU; with the labour market participation rate increasing to 78% and total unemployment decreasing from 10% in 2012 to 5.4% in 2018, with the largest decrease observed in youth unemployment, falling by 9% in that period. The positive trends in labour market participation are manifested in the reduced share of respondents struggling to make ends meet, falling to its lowest level of 48% in 2016, after fluctuations throughout the economic crisis. As a consequence, average life satisfaction in Estonia has increased from 5.6 (on a scale of 1–10) in 2003, rising to 6.7 in 2016 near approaching the EU average at 7.1. Furthermore, self-reported happiness has increased from 6.9 in 2003 to 7.2 in 2016, again coming close to the EU average of 7.4.
As overall labour market participation has improved in Estonia, so too has the participation of women in the labour market which has increased from 71.4% in 2012 to 75.6% in 2018 – sitting above the EU average of 68.3% in 2018. And while, Estonia’s gender pay gap is decreasing, it remains one of the largest in the EU, due to a multitude of factors including wage inequality and labour market segmentation. Measures have been taken to facilitate a return to the labour market for women and men by adding flexibility to the parental leave and benefit system. Furthermore, since 2015, there have been initiatives to increase the provision and access to childcare services. As these initiatives have been rolled out, the perceived quality of childcare services in Estonia has jumped – increasing from 6.3 in 2011 to reach 7.2 in 2016 – to now be Estonia’s top ranking public service in terms of perceived quality, as well as surpassing the EU average of 6.7.
Overall, Eurofound’s quality of life data for Estonia indicates that there has been significant improvement to quality of life and the perceived quality of public services over the last fifteen years. Despite fluctuations during the economic crisis, labour market participation rates are now at a 20-year-high and unemployment rates have dropped to be some of the lowest in the EU. Furthermore, although the gender gap is still one of the highest in the EU, there is progress being made, with the female employment rate increasing and initiatives being taken to improve the provision of childcare which has resulted in a hike in the perceived quality of childcare services, leading Estonia to climb well above the EU average in this respect.
Eurofound has been monitoring and reporting on living and working conditions in Estonia, in comparison to other EU Member States, since before accession to the EU in 2004.
Publication: European Quality of Life Survey 2016
Country profile: Living and working conditions in Estonia