No. 21

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Fire under Ashes

  • Helle Ruusing

    Editor-in-Chief, Information Adviser of the Chancellery of the Riigikogu

There are about 130 000 people in Estonia who are looking for a job. A large number of people in their prime have no steady income and, what is even worse form their own standpoint, they have no possibility to be useful.

Our flexible labour market bore the brunt of the economic recession and relieved undertakings of workers who had been rendered useless. From the viewpoint of economy, undertakings are free to re-organise their activities. From the standpoint of the society and the state, so large number of unemployed puts a heavy burden on the whole social sphere – payments from the Unemployment Insurance Fund, subsistence benefits, pensions, health insurance, etc. The number of the unemployed may be regarded as a figure that increases or decreases. It may be disputed whose data are more accurate. In the worst case, some political power may attempt to use the unemployed in its interests. However, 130 000 people are not a uniform mass, there is no army of the unemployed. Therefore, both the state and local governments have to find many different solutions and cooperate because there are no solutions for reducing unemployment that would suit everybody at once.

The efficiency of labour market measures is often revealed only when they are implemented. It is no good retraining people in an area of specialisation where they find no job, or supporting positions that are created only for the period of receiving the benefit. Personal approach certainly requires a greater contribution from the state but, in the final analysis, money can be used more purposefully. Both our own money and European money. The crisis will end one day and we are counting our human resources (human capital). Our population is too small to allow such losses as outcasts or people who emigrate for good.

There are many problems that need to be solved and inner conflicts in many areas, like for example the administrative system where, more often than not, the state and local governments are in opposition and cooperation is hindered. Local governments cannot decide together on the development of the future school network or public transport system because they are competing with each other. We have too many schools, institutions of higher education, hospitals, that is, buildings and institutions. Not everything is determined by competition in the free market. That would not be in the interests of people. Many decisions will have to be taken by those whose job it is – politicians. So that the fire under ashes would not grow into a consuming flame.

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