Adaptation of newly arrived immigrants in Estonia, according to the data of integration monitoring
This article is the first analysis that quantitatively studies the adaptation of newly arrived immigrants in Estonia. The attitudes of newly arrived immigrants in regard to several issues relating to the life and society of Estonia are analysed, using the data of a large-scale study conducted among the newly arrived immigrants in spring 2017 as source material. 2850 respondents participated in the study conducted within the framework of the Estonian integration monitoring. A majority of them were the foreigners – citizens of the European Union and third country nationals – who had arrived in Estonia in 2012–2016.
The results show that 81 percent of all respondents rate their general adaptation in Estonia as better than average or good, or very good. Nearly half of the newly arrived immigrants wished to connect themselves with Estonia for a longer time (for more than five years), which means that a large percentage of newly arrived immigrants are not just people who have come to Estonia temporarily. 32 percent of newly arrived immigrants intend to apply for the Estonian citizenship in the future; however, that wish is lower among the immigrants from the European Union and higher among third country nationals.
As could be expected, the command of the Estonian language among newly arrived immigrants is very low during their first years in Estonia, especially among those newly arrived immigrants who preferred to reply to the questionnaire in English. It shows that Estonian is learned, and the results are quite good, but even after five years, there are quite a large number of those whose language proficiency is passive or deficient. The newly arrived immigrants tend to have daily active contacts with the Estonians in working and school environment, outside of that, communication with the Estonians decreases significantly.
When we divide the target group of newly arrived immigrants conditionally into two analytical categories, the English speakers and the Russian speakers, we can see that in supporting adaptation in Estonia, it is necessary to pay attention to both, in particular separately to the target group of new Russian-speaking immigrants, who in regard to certain characteristics seem to be adapting to a different extent in comparison to the English-speaking immigrants. The Russian-speaking target group of newly arrived immigrants has less contacts with the Estonians than the English-speaking group, their level of knowledge of the Estonian language is lower in comparison to others, their sense of belonging among the Estonians does not significantly increase over time, and they also seem to perceive their situation on the labour market as somewhat more unsure than the others.
The conclusions of the article are important also in preparing the programmes and measures for supporting adaptation and long-time integration – more than half of the newly arrived immigrants are not people who have come to Estonia temporarily, but many need support in adaptation even after several years have passed.