Development needs

Based on the analysis of the situation in Estonia and the developments in the world, there is a need for important steps to be taken in almost all areas of life in order to improve the current situation or to take advantage of available opportunities. These have been presented in the strategy as nine equally important development needs that must be taken into account when making decisions. The numerical data refers to 2019, unless stated otherwise.

Population

According to estimates, the natural increase of the population in Estonia will remain moderately negative until 2035, due to the fact that the smaller generations born in the 1990s and later have reached the age of starting families.

The world's population is projected to grow to around 8.8 billion by 2035 (from 7.3 billion in 2015) and the global median age will increase to 34 (30 in 2015). The population is growing mainly in Asia and Africa. Population growth will likely to come to a halt in the European Union, with Europe outpacing most regions of the world in terms of aging. Estonia is facing changes related to the aging of society.

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Health and life expectancy of people

The increase of average life expectancy (78.82) in Estonia is the fastest in the European Union, but remains below the average indicator.

Extreme weather events and the resulting crises are on the rise in the world, which makes it necessary to improve our preparedness to cope with the effects of climate change on human health, well-being, safety, and the living environment. There is an increasing risk of infectious diseases (including new and unknown ones) appearing, spreading and growing into epidemics and pandemics. In order to prevent the spread of communicable diseases and epidemics and pandemics, institutions in all fields, and society as a whole, need to be better prepared to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

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Society and opportunities

In order to ensure this cohesion, it is important to make sure that all permanent residents and Estonians living elsewhere feel a sense of togetherness with Estonia and carry the Estonian identity, along with acknowledging and respecting the opportunity of different population groups to preserve and develop their mother tongue and culture.

New patterns and directions of migration are emerging in the world (instead of the previous south-north movement, south-south migration is on the rise). In the next decades, Europe will face large-scale migration flows from its unstable neighbouring regions, and this will require a smart migration policy.

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Learning opportunities

There is a large share of people without professional education in Estonia: 27% of adults (25–64 years old) have no professional or vocational education.

The global labour market is heavily influenced by the continued growth of automation and new industries, which requires the reshaping of existing skills and knowledge profiles, as well as a response in educational policy. The labour market is becoming significantly more flexible and, at the same time, more unstable for people. The match between education and the needs of society and the labour market must be improved on all levels of education. Also, higher education and research and development activities must become more closely linked. The working-age population increasingly values entrepreneurship, being self-employed, working in more flexible project and platform-based solutions. Education creates preconditions for entrepreneurship and innovation, economic growth that takes into account the specifics of Estonia and the development of a balanced and cohesive society.

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Business environment

Estonian economy is strongly integrated into the EU single market in both the product and service sectors, which is why we must actively work to ensure its even better functioning.

The interval of technological change is accelerating in the world, as a result of which new business and lifestyle models are emerging and new ways of working and living are being shaped. If international institutions also weaken and positions of countries in international relations change, there is a potential for an increase in protectionism which will significantly change the way undertakings can sell their products and the conditions in which they compete.

Read more 

Biodiversity and the environment

Of the 13,500 species found in Estonia and assessed during the preparation of the Redbook, only half of the species were considered to be in a favourable state.

The world is facing climate change, environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity due to human activity, among other things, and this also has an effect on the quality of life of Estonians, our nature, and the economiy. Biodiversity is under threat in the world, with almost a million species, or one in eight, at risk of extinction. Every year more and more plant and animal species are lost and the rate of extinction is thousands of times higher than the average of the last ten million years.

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Cultural space and the living environment

The rate of urbanisation in Estonia is one of the fastest among OECD countries (69.4% of the population lives in cities).

By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. The rate of urbanisation in Estonia is one of the fastest among OECD countries (69.4% of the population lives in cities). At the same time, access to the cultural space must be ensured regardless of where people live, because the opportunity to participate in cultural life increases the quality of life, makes the living environment more valuable, and supports community activities. 

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Security and safety

Estonia is considered a safe country by 92% of the population (in 2020). Confidence in the Rescue Board is the highest (97% trust it completely or rather trusts it), followed by the Emergency Response  Centre and the Police and Border Guard Board (94% and 88% respectively).

According to international studies, the downward trend in the number and extent of international conflicts in the world in recent decades has taken an upwards turn. In the coming decades, the risk of inter-state conflicts and Proxy wars increases mainly due to conflicts of interest between the major powers, the continuing threat of terrorism, and political and economic instability. In addition to the conventional threats, hybrid threats have increased (e.g., subversion, interference in democratic processes, cyber-attacks). The fragmentation of common value systems weakens the role of International institutions. 

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Governance

In the world, governance is becoming more flexible and diverse, and public service companies and NGOs are playing a growing role.

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Population

The world's population is projected to grow to around 8.8 billion by 2035 (from 7.3 billion in 2015) and the global median age will increase to 34 (30 in 2015). The population is growing mainly in Asia and Africa. Population growth will likely to come to a halt in the European Union, with Europe outpacing most regions of the world in terms of aging. Estonia is facing changes related to the aging of society.

Estonia is facing changes related to the aging of society. According to estimates, the natural increase of the population in Estonia will remain moderately negative until 2035, due to the fact that the smaller generations born in the 1990s and later have reached the age of starting families. Although the natural population growth of Estonians has been positive for the last two years (+348 people), among the total population, it remains negative (-1302 people). The change in the population of Estonia in the near future will largely depend on the relationship between immigration and emigration. According to the main scenario, the population of Estonia will be approximately 1.305 million in 2035; if migration flows are balanced, the number will be somewhat smaller. By that time, one out of every four people living in Estonia will be 65 years old or older, while the number of working-age people (15–64) will decrease by almost 44,000. This also means that the share of population that is at the age for starting a family will be smaller.

Among the generations that have reached the end of their family-planning years in recent years, the average number of children per woman has been 1.82–1.86, i.e. lower than the population recovery level (2.1 children per women). The low fertility rate and a decrease in the number of children young people wish to have is worrying. Although the total fertility rate is on the rise (1.66), the average age of women giving birth is also increasing. In addition, it is estimated that up to 200,000 people of Estonian descent are living abroad, who need to be taken into consideration more in regards to carrying on and introducing the Estonian language and culture, as well as in their involvement in Estonian society, including addressing labour market needs.

These demographic changes require a sustainable population policy, a supportive environment for children, youth, education, family and health policies, development of indicators to promote a high level of employment, longer working lives for the elderly and support for dignified aging, targeted adaptation and integration of immigrants into the Estonian language and cultural space, participation of the people living in Estonia and our compatriots in social and cultural activities, and provision of appropriate health and social services.

The changes caused by the decrease and aging of the population are having the greatest impact on Ida-Viru County, South-Eastern and Central Estonia and regions further away from the centres. According to the forecast, the population of Tallinn and Tartu (and the respective counties) will continue to grow. A balanced knowledge-based approach that takes into account regional specificities and needs and reduces socio-economic inequalities in different regions, and supports rural liferegions will help to cope with the urbanisation and demographic changes.

Health and life expectancy of people

Extreme weather events and the resulting crises are on the rise in the world, which makes it necessary to improve our preparedness to cope with the effects of climate change on human health, well-being, safety, and the living environment. There is an increasing risk of infectious diseases (including new and unknown ones) appearing, spreading and growing into epidemics and pandemics. In order to prevent the spread of communicable diseases and epidemics and pandemics, institutions in all fields, and society as a whole, need to be better prepared to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Among other things, in situations in which society is unable to function normally in order to save human lives, and there is a growing pressure on the social and healthcare systems. Human activity will reduce natural diversity, increase extreme weather conditions, oceans will acidify and the food on our tables will also change. Water and air quality and unprecedented climate conditions continue to cause health issues for humans. The main health risks in Europe also include rising levels of obesity and excessive use of tobacco and alcohol. 

The increase of average life expectancy (78.82) in Estonia is the fastest in the European Union, but remains below the average indicator. The healthy life years, however, has not increased within the last ten years (55.9 years). There is both a large gender gap (men live 8.4 years less than women, and have 3.5 years less of healthy life) and regional differences (in South-East Estonia, the healthy life years is more than ten years lower than in North and West Estonia). Health related behaviour also differs vastly among levels of education: men with basic and lower education live, on average, 10 and women 8.7 years less than representatives of their gender who have a higher education.

Almost 53% of health loss was due to risk factors or risk behaviour (in 2017). The leading risk factors and behaviours that cause health loss in Estonia are high blood pressure, unbalanced eating habits, nicotine and tobacco consumption, excess weight and low physical activity, use of alcohol and drugs. It is important to significantly reduce the consumption of nicotine, tobacco, alcohol, and drugs in the society. Although tobacco and alcohol consumption has decreased in recent decades, there are still many people each year who die of diseases caused by alcohol and as a result of narcotics overdoses. Obesity is on the rise in Estonia: more than half of the population is overweight, including one in four first graders. 

The mental health situation is also an important factor in health loss. Mood and anxiety disorders are on the rise and suicides make up almost 27% of injury deaths. Thanks to detecting and preventing dangers and changing attitudes, skills, and behaviour, the number of injury deaths has decreased by more than 40% compared to 2007. This means that in order to improve the health of people and lengthen the healthy life years, we need to continue to shape the attitudes and behaviours of people to become more health and environmentally conscious. Estonia contributes 6.7% of its GDP to healthcare, but this is almost three percentage points lower than the EU average. If the current level of services continues, by 2035 the expenses of the Estonian Health Insurance Fund will grow almost 24% faster than its income. In addition, the health care system is constantly under pressure from the increase of expenses on health interventions due to changes in the salaries of health care workers, and the development and rise in price of health technology. The share of elderly people and patients with multiple illnesses will start to have a more noticeable impact on health care system expenditures after 2035, leading the government sector into an up to 1% deficit (by 2070, the deficit will fall to 0.6% of GDP). This, in turn, will worsen the availability of health care services.

The share of the elderly in the population is increasing and the number of people with disabilities has risen. There is a need to improve the accessibility of the living environment, find new solutions, and update the long-term care system in Estonia which currently fails to sufficiently take account of the demographic changes and provide sufficient support for those in need. The burden of care of the family members of people reliant on care affects approximately 47,000 people in Estonia and a gender gap can be observed: of all the caretakers of family members, women make up 60%; as many as 80% of the people who are unable to be active in the labour market due to taking care of someone are women. Another issue regarding long-term care is the remarkably high share of own contribution, which has increased in recent years. A person under care or their family member pays 79% of the total cost of general care services provided in a care home. The average net old-age pension is 41% of the average net salary. The theoretical net replacement rate of old-age pensions was 40% in 2017, which makes it the lowest in the EU. The relative poverty rate of people above 65 years is also the highest in the EU in Estonia (43.1% in 2018). Therefore, improving people’s ability to cope in their old age inevitably requires them to have savings of their own.

Society and opportunities

New patterns and directions of migration are emerging in the world (instead of the previous south-north movement, south-south migration is on the rise). In the next decades, Europe will face large-scale migration flows from its unstable neighbouring regions, and this will require a smart migration policy.

The basis for the cohesion of our society is a common Estonian identity, which is based on the sharing of our constitutional values, a sense of togetherness, and a shared cultural space, a conscious definition of oneself as a member of Estonian society, and respect for the regulations and laws of this society. In order to ensure this cohesion, it is important to make sure that all permanent residents and Estonians living elsewhere feel a sense of togetherness with Estonia and carry the Estonian identity. Proficiency in Estonian as the national language ensures equal opportunities for all learners to progress in life, which is why more efficient opportunities are created for Estonian permanent residents who speak some other language as their mother tongue, as well as compatriots living elsewhere to acquire Estonian and get to know Estonian culture, while recognising and respecting the possibility of different population groups to preserve and develop their mother tongue and culture. 

It is also important to ensure that each member of society feels supported and valued. In the Estonian cities (especially in Tallinn), socio-economic, spatial and ethnic segregation has increasingly begun to overlap.

Estonia contributes 13% of its GDP to social protection, but this is almost six percentage points lower than the EU average and does not sufficiently cover actual needs. A total of 21.7% of the population of Estonia lives in relative poverty (in 2018; the EU average was about 17%), while in Ida-Viru County and Valga County, the relative poverty rate is over 35%. The need to maintain and improve the employment situation remains a burning issue because the number of employed will decrease by 4% by 2035 due to the decreasing and aging population.

Women of other nationalities have the weakest position in the labour market. While the employment of men differs only by 4.3 percentage points by nationality, the employment gap for women in terms of nationality is almost twice as large (among 15-74 year olds). Lower employment is significantly affected by poor Estonian language skills, which is why we must continue to improve the teaching of Estonian to people with a different mother tongue. There is also a significant regional difference: unemployment is lowest in Harju County (3.4%) and Tartu County (4.1%), and highest in Ida-Viru County (8.7%). The corona and economic crisis has significantly increased unemployment in 2020, including in Harju County and Tartu County, which has created a need to come up with solutions different from the ones adopted before.

Although the gender pay gap has narrowed in recent years (17.1%), it remains high. In addition to the pay gap, inequality also manifests itself in domestic violence which accounts for 47% of all violent crimes (85% of the perpetrators are men, 81% of the victims are women). There is also age inequality in the labour market: people aged 50 and over earn, on average, one fifth less than younger people. The proportion of people with a current disability is 11.7% of the population (as of 1 January 2020) and has increased over the last ten years. The employment rate for people with disabilities (31.5%) has more than doubled over the same period.

Learning opportunities

The global labour market is heavily influenced by the continued growth of automation and new industries, which requires the reshaping of existing skills and knowledge profiles, as well as a response in educational policy. The labour market is becoming significantly more flexible and, at the same time, more unstable for people. The match between education and the needs of society and the labour market must be improved on all levels of education. Also, higher education and research and development activities must become more closely linked. The working-age population increasingly values entrepreneurship, being self-employed, working in more flexible project and platform-based solutions. Education creates preconditions for entrepreneurship and innovation, economic growth that takes into account the specifics of Estonia and the development of a balanced and cohesive society.

Estonia is at the absolute top of Europe and among the best countries in the world in terms of ensuring the effectiveness and equality of basic education: according to the results of the international PISA test, Estonian 15-year-olds are ranked first in European countries in functional reading skills, mathematics, and science (biology, physics, and chemistry).

However, there is a large share of people without professional education in Estonia: 27% of adults (25–64 years old) have no professional or vocational education. The share of young people (18–24 years old) who do not continue their primary or lower education is 9.8%, and the share of men among them (12.7%) is almost twice of that of women. By ethnic groups, 10.2% of Estonians and 9% of people of other nationalities decide not to continue their studies.

A learner-centred and inclusive education system based on shared values would help to provide learning methods that support the needs of the labour market. People need to adapt to the need to learn throughout their lives and be prepared for a change in profession. At the same time, those who need it the most (people with lower levels of education and the elderly) are less likely to take advantage of the available lifelong learning opportunities. There is a significant gap in participation in lifelong learning by ethnicity (22.1% of Estonian adults, but only 16.1% of residents of other nationalities are studying) and by regions (23.4% of the working age population study in Northern Estonia, while in Central Estonia, this number is 15.3 %, in North-Eastern Estonia, 16.1%, in Western Estonia, 16.3%, and in Southern Estonia, 18.9%).

Due to the constantly evolving and more widespread use of technology, it is important to prepare people for the use of technologies and to improve their digital competency. In Estonia, nearly 100,000 people aged 17–74 do not use the Internet; most of them are elderly, with lower income and/or lower levels of education.

Business environment

The interval of technological change is accelerating in the world, as a result of which new business and lifestyle models are emerging and new ways of working and living are being shaped. If international institutions also weaken and positions of countries in international relations change, there is a potential for an increase in protectionism which will significantly change the way undertakings can sell their products and the conditions in which they compete.

As a member of the European Union, the Estonian economy is strongly integrated into the EU single market in both the product and service sectors, which is why we must actively work to ensure its even better functioning. When developing the business environment, it is necessary to find a balance between stability and changes that prepare us for the future. Estonia’s rise in the World Economic Forum’s competitiveness ranking confirms that our business environment is generally competitive, but the low 18th place in the World Bank’s Doing Business list highlights several fields in which we have room for improvement. Estonia has weaker positions in the area of protection of the interests of minority shareholders. For example, insolvency solutions need improvement.

At the same time, the precondition for Estonia’s success is the effectiveness of its basic education. We have seen an increase in the number of top performers in the international PISA test (for example, over 12% of the top performers were in natural sciences, which is almost twice as many as the OECD average). The number of start-ups and the ability to attract investments has increased. Thanks to the e-residency programme, Estonia also has a unique global competitive advantage which should be further developed to become an international hub for talent and business. 

The labour productivity of Estonia has increased (78.6% of the EU average), but slower than expected (incl. the manufacturing industry in Estonia where, unlike the rest of Europe, productivity is lower than other sectors) and regionally unevenly. The introduction of new technologies has increased productivity; however, integration of digital technologies in the business sector in Estonia is poor (15th place in the EU). In general, the share of research and development expenditures of Estonian companies in GDP (0.59% in 2018) is well below the EU average (1.45%). In the development of high-quality new products and services, as well as in modernising existing solutions, research and development activities and co-operation between researchers, enterprises, and other institutions must increase significantly in Estonia.

Despite the high quality of Estonian science, we do not have many new knowledge-based solutions that help to improve the society and the economy. Also, the capacity to implement research and development activities varies from region to region. Estonia’s regional development is also hampered by large regional differences in job supply, entrepreneurial activity, knowledge intensity and added value of enterprises, and the location of productive jobs.

In Estonia, the resource productivity of local resources is very low (EUR 0.56 per kg in 2017). Greater emphasis must be placed on environment-friendly technologies and business models and on greater and greener valorisation of local resources and secondary raw materials. Special attention is paid to areas of activity and technologies that have growth potential. These development needs require long-term investments, for which enterprises are often not ready due to the high risks involved. Investments are also heavily dependent on economic developments and global impacts. The state can help by sharing the risks of companies' long-term investments and planning state investments, especially when the investment activity of enterprises has suffered setbacks. Development activities are supported by the availability of a workforce with the relevant knowledge and skills.

Estonia is a small country with an open economy, which makes it vulnerable to developments in the economies of its neighbouring countries and the world in general. In order to ensure economic security, we must not let the country become technologically, economically or financially dependent on some other, unfriendly, country.

Biodiversity and the environment

The world is facing climate change, environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity due to human activity, among other things, and this also has an effect on the quality of life of Estonians, our nature, and the economiy. Biodiversity is under threat in the world, with almost a million species, or one in eight, at risk of extinction. Every year more and more plant and animal species are lost and the rate of extinction is thousands of times higher than the average of the last ten million years.

With the loss of biodiversity, nature’s ability to provide us with the natural benefits of ecosystems (including clean water, air, food, and natural resources) will disappear. The better functioning and richer ecosystems are, the better equipped we are for human existence and the better we are able to withstand environmental pollution and adapt to climate change. Of the 13,500 species found in Estonia and assessed during the preparation of the Redbook, only half of the species were considered to be in a favourable state. Only half of the species and habitats of European importance are in a favourable state in Estonia, i.e., the survival of these populations is not guaranteed.

Species are most at risk from declining habitats, deteriorating living conditions, and fragmentation. In addition, sea levels are rising and percipitation is increasing, with new alien species and pests settling in. The loss of natural habitats leads to high costs of finding alternative solutions to benefits that the damaged ecosystems can no longer provide. At the same time, investment in biodiversity supports growth and regional development, increases employment in rural areas and helps to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The protection and restoration of habitats, the enhancement of biodiversity and the protection of soils over a sufficiently large area are important both for the protection of biodiversity and for buffering and adapting to climate change. Protected areas are the core of biodiversity conservation, but they alone are not enough. Connecting corridors are needed between them to create a functioning green infrastructure. 

The poor environmental state of the Baltic Sea requires close attention and measures from all of the Baltic Sea countries to achieve good environmental status. The use of the Estonian maritime area for new purposes (renewable energy, aquaculture, infrastructure networks) is also gradually intensifying, and the traditional use of the sea is diversifying, increasing the pressure of human activities on the marine environment. Marine resources must be used sustainably and in consideration of the sustainability of the marine ecosystem to achieve good environmental status of marine waters.

However, the area and reserves of Estonian forests have increased significantly over the last half century. Forest grows on about 2.3 million hectares, of which about 74% is commercial forest. The abundance of Estonian forests (Estonia ranks 6th in Europe in terms of forest abundance) contributes to our clean air. There are no problems with air pollution in Estonia, in general, with it only occurring in a few cities. The situation of drinking water that meets the requiements in larger settlements is also very good: more than 99% of population are connected to the public water supply (69.3% in 2008), but this has been largely achieved with EU funding and therefore, water infrastructure also needs sufficient cash flow in the future to maintain this status. At the same time, 12% of the population uses their own well water as drinking water, which in 60-70% of the cases does not meet the quality requirements of the public water supply system.

Although according to preliminary estimates, total greenhouse gas emissions in Estonia have decreased by 54% compared to 1990, the Estonian economy is still one of the most emission-intensive in Europe – greenhouse gas emissions per each euro of the GDP is double the EU average (in 2017). At the same time, the European Union has set a goal to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, which will also have a very direct impact on the choices facing Estonia. The transition to climate neutrality will particularly affect Ida-Viru County due to the oil shale industry there. The environmental awareness of the Estonian population has increased, but it has not sufficiently influenced people's behaviour. Ensuring a good environmental status is important for ensuring the health and working ability of the population. Compared to year 2000, the generation of waste has almost doubled. Although the overall waste recovery rate has tripled (to 41%), the share of municipal waste recycling in total municipal waste is still one of the lowest in the EU (28%). The share of renewable energy in final energy consumption is 30%, which is significantly above the European average (18%).

Cultural space and the living environment

By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. The rate of urbanisation in Estonia is one of the fastest among OECD countries (69.4% of the population lives in cities). At the same time, access to the cultural space must be ensured regardless of where people live, because the opportunity to participate in cultural life increases the quality of life, makes the living environment more valuable, and supports community activities. 

In the interests of human well-being and the survival of Estonian culture, it is important to pay attention to the availability of different cultural fields among Estonian and non-Estonian communities. At the same time, cultivation of one’s own culture – which lays the foundation for people’s identity and love for their homeland, and the availability of world culture in different languages – must be supported. 

Both personal and public space form an integral part of a valuable living environment. The number of dwellings that are unoccupied or in poor condition outside the centres is increasing in Estonia (one third of Estonia’s construction heritage is in emergency or poor condition). Nevertheless, almost 91% of households are satisfied with the condition of their dwellings (in 2008, the corresponding indicator was less than 80%). Where possible, historic city centres should be tightened, enabling to preserve Estonia’s heritage, facilitate walking, and be environment-friendly. Greater state competence is needed for integrated spatial planning in order to ensure, among other things, coherence between state and local government investments, and to adapt to demographic changes and other development needs. To make better spatial decisions, we need to increase everyone's spatial planning competence, supported by high-quality spatial data and smarter services. 

Although public transport is available to 76% of the population, the share of public transport users, pedestrians and cyclists has decreased in recent years (in 2018, respectively 20.7; 15.1 and 2.7%) due to the excessive amount of time that is needed to cover the distances and the complexity of combining and connecting different means of transportation and the lines. We need to make living, studying, leisure and working environments and the movement between them more healthy and supportive of environmentfriendly and safe choices, as well as more accessible to all members of the society. A good example is domestic rail traffic: the number of rail passengers has doubled in six years (8.37 million journeys per year).

In addition to reducing the time spent on covering distances within the country, in order to improve the competitiveness of regions, it is important to develop Estonia’s connections with other European regions, both in terms of transport and energy infrastructure. The development of external land transport connections must continue in line with the EU’s plan to build a core transport network (including Via Baltica and Rail Baltic). In the case of energy infrastructure, energy security and security of supply issues need to be addressed. Development of high-speed Internet access must continue.

Security and safety

According to international studies, the downward trend in the number and extent of international conflicts in the world in recent decades has taken an upwards turn. In the coming decades, the risk of inter-state conflicts and Proxy wars increases mainly due to conflicts of interest between the major powers, the continuing threat of terrorism, and political and economic instability. In addition to the conventional threats, hybrid threats have increased (e.g., subversion, interference in democratic processes, cyber-attacks). The fragmentation of common value systems weakens the role of International institutions. 

Estonia is considered a safe country by 92% of the population (in 2020). Confidence in the Rescue Board is the highest (97% trust it completely or rather trusts it), followed by the Emergency Response  Centre and the Police and Border Guard Board (94% and 88% respectively). The level of trust is similar among Estonians and residents of other nationalities. Among people of other nationalities, NATO, the Defence Forces, the Defence League and the European Union earn less trust than on average, but the level of trust is growing for most institutions. 

Membership in NATO is still considered to be the main security guarantee for Estonia (53% cite it as one of the three most important factors). The residents’ will to defend (41%) and the development of Estonia’s independent defence capability (31%) are named second and third. There is a need to increase people’s awareness of their role and responsibility so that they can act wisely in the event of various accidents (including crisis situations) and thus reduce the risk to their lives and health. 

It is also important to raise the awareness of state authorities, local authorities and vital service providers about potential threats and to improve their preparedness for crises. The Estonian population is unevenly distributed and there are areas where ensuring the availability of public safety services is effective only in closer cooperation with the community and by using smart solutions. Among ohter things, ensuring a strong cultural space that promotes cohesion and knowledge-based public space that supports communication decreases the probability of value conflicts in society. In order to ensure security and safety, the broad security concept needs to be implemented further, close relations with the allies and partner countries need to be maintained, and, in cooperation with them, functioning of international organisations and efficacy of international law must be ensured. Further cross-sectoral cooperation is also important for security.

Governance

In the world, governance is becoming more flexible and diverse, and public service companies and NGOs are playing a growing role.

The tax burden in Estonia is 34% of GDP (in 2020) and will decrease, reaching 32.7% by 2035 (the assumption is that the current situation will continue). The decline in the tax burden is due to the slower-growing consumption tax burden on GDP. This requires, among other things, the reduction of bureaucracy, co-creative policy-making with people and civil society, and an agreement on the role of the state, local governments and the community in the provision of public services (including ensuring a safe living environment).

In addition to the participation of the elderly and young people in social life, there are also bottlenecks regarding the social activity of nonEstonian-speaking residents. Russian-speaking young people are even more involved in civil society than Estonian-speaking people, but the rate of participation in voluntary activities among Estonianspeaking people is still much higher (52% vs. 44%) than among Russian-speaking people. Also, 45% of new immigrants have not volunteered, but would like to do so.

According to the OECD, Estonia does not use enough research and field experts in making decisions and, compared to other Member States, the efficiency of government agencies is only average. The country’s capacity to use research to bring about the necessary change and to involve researchers in policy-making needs to be improved. At the same time, it is important that research stems more from Estonia’s development needs than before. There should be a clear preference for innovative solutions and technologies and for more efficient communication between authorities (and enterprises), based more on real-time data exchange and greater use of open and large data.

The basic infrastructure for e-services and the tools for using e-services are well developed, and e-services are well advanced in a number of areas (e.g., tax collection and administration), but the quality of services is uneven and the sustainability of digital solutions needs to be strengthened. In order to ensure the preservation of the infrastructure of e-services and the security and development of electronic means, we must constantly contribute to the development of the basic infrastructure and create new alternatives to the existing solutions in case of technological possibilities. At the same time, the constant development of technology (including the use of artificial intelligence) opens up new opportunities for the state to provide existing services more efficiently and to make decisions in a smarter way. 

Achieving major strategic goals requires consensus between different groups in society. When planning state activities, it must be taken into account that currently most of the state budget (about 80%) is already related to statutory expenditures. Cooperation between the central government, local governments, and communities and wider public consultation in finding solutions based on people’s needs, a clear division of roles in their implementation and ensuring the financial capacity of local governments will help to bring governance and the quality of public service provision in line with people’s expectations. One of the mechanisms for empowering Estonian people, communities, and civil associations, and building a cohesive society, is organizing more extensive public initiatives and surveys at the initiative of both the state and citizens.

Last updated: 24.08.2021