Creation of jobs as the key issue for overcoming the crisis was deliberated as a matter of significant national importance in the Riigikogu today. Reports were by Chairman of the Estonian People’s Union Faction Karel Rüütli, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Estonian Development Fund Raivo Vare and Professor of macroeconomics at Tartu University Raul Eamets.
Karel Rüütli stressed in his speech that the Estonian People’s Union Faction had raised the issue of creation of jobs in order to look for cross-party solutions for the challenges which Estonia is facing. Rüütli expressed his hope that, as a result of that day’s discussion, concrete measures for creation of new jobs would be agreed upon on the basis of the joint share of the positions of parties and experts. Rüütli made a proposal to create the position of the Employment Minister without Portfolio for coordinated and complex management of employment issues and to prepare a plan of measures and a national implementation plan for creation of jobs. “It is important that all political parties, relevant government authorities, associations of local governments and guardian organisations of interest groups be involved in the preparation of the plan and the implementation plan,” added Rüütli. In his report, Rüütli also pointed out the Estonian People’s Union’s proposals for resolution of employment issues. Among other things, the Estonian People’s Union suggests to make better use of the opportunities for enhancing the competitiveness of the economy arising from the geographic position of Estonia, for instance, to create good-neighbourly relations with Russia and the necessary conditions for bringing innovative investments which create high added value into Estonia.
Raivo Vare saw education as a key issue for alleviation of unemployment. Vare focused his report on strategic choices. He compared our crisis with the crisis years of the 1990s in Finland and Sweden and he found that certain regularities exist. In Vare’s opinion, our chance lies rather in strategic changes but here we have to take into account that only a few segments of the economy will recover and the further growth of the economy may be somewhat less integrated. “Strong structural unemployment will certainly remain. The reality is that the essence of today’s economy will not bring steady new growth, that means, we cannot ensure a remarkable increase in the standard of living and improvement of the social picture,” warned Vare. He stated that, with its current economic structure, Estonia will not catch up with the developed countries. A study of foreign investors, carried out by the Faculty of Economics of the University of Tartu, had revealed that skilled labour force was the main challenge. In the Development Fund’s vision, export, capital and people are the three “whales” which we have to rely on. Vare also stressed the need for a capable administrative system which would allow to manage changes effectively and quickly, that is, application of the task force principle for the relevant cross-organisation forms would deserve consideration. Vare spoke about the opportunities to attract capital and the need for strategic retraining. He highlighted the importance of keeping people active as well as learning from others’ experience.
Raul Eamets explained how the drastic increase of unemployment had influenced the employment policy. In Eamets’ words, points of emphasis have shifted: earlier, relatively great emphasis was laid on training, but now quick measures such as wage subsidies, work practice and coaching for working life have gained priority. Creation of social jobs has also increased. Eamets divided the proposals presented from the rostrum of the Riigikogu into three categories. First, social jobs, wage subsidies, work practice and clubs for the unemployed are measures with rapid effect. As measures with a medium-term perspective, Eamets mentioned training, retraining, enterprise support, social tax exemption for those who employ the unemployed, and the apartment buildings energy efficiency programme and various support programmes. A balanced budgetary policy, introduction of business studies at schools, adoption of the euro and the education reform influence the labour market in a long-term perspective. In Eamets’ words, none of them should be totally disregarded, rather, in crisis circumstances it is necessary to achieve a balance between these measures. Eamets pointed to the problems that had been revealed by a study which had analysed the situation of Estonia in respect of active employment policy measures and lifelong learning. He also made concrete proposals for resolution of these problems, for example, extension of the employment policy measures also to the employed people and promotion of part-time working. Eamets suggested carrying out monitorings and evaluating the results in order to get a better overview.
Comments were presented by Olga Sõtnik, Mai Treial, Marek Strandberg, Urmas Klaas, Jaanus Marrandi and Lembit Kaljuvee.
For more details, read the verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian):
The Riigikogu Press Service