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Estonia

Source: EURES The European Job Mobility Portal. For up-to-date information visit the Living and Working Conditions section about Estonia on the EURES Portal.

How to find a job

In order to find employment, a good starting place is to take a thorough look at job offers. Employment offers are mediated by the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund via its portal and its county departments and employment offices, along with several information and job placement portals and employment agencies.

The best-known Estonian job placement portals include CV Keskus, CV-Online, EkspressJob, the Estonian Public Service competition website, etc. You will find the addresses of the portals under references.

There are EURES advisers working in the Tallinn and Harju County, Tartu County, and Ida-Viru County departments of the Unemployment Insurance Fund, who can provide information on vacancies and on living and working conditions in Estonia to foreign citizens. EURES also provides employers with advice on finding suitable workers from Estonia and other countries in the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA). Contact details for EURES advisers can be found from the EURES Estonia portal, on the Unemployment Insurance Fund website and on the eures.ee website.

All of the major Estonian universities have career services which can help university students to find jobs and traineeship positions.

All county departments of the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund have career centres that provide information and counselling on education, the job market, and occupational issues.

Many Estonian employers take part in job fairs in order to find employees. There are job and career fairs organised by the Unemployment Insurance Fund. These take place in virtually all counties of Estonia and are becoming increasingly popular. Pan-Estonian online fairs are held as well. The fairs present domestic and international job offers, and provide an opportunity for participants to learn about services offered by the Unemployment Insurance Fund, find out about living and working conditions in other countries, receive free career advice, take part in workshops and discussion panels, and much more. Currently, fairs take place online and are pan-Estonian. EURES also organises a pan-European online job fair at least once a year.

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How to apply for a job

In order to apply for a job, you generally have to provide the employer with your CV and a covering letter. A photograph is not compulsory. Sometimes a letter of motivation should be attached as well.

CV

CVs are compiled in A4 format using one of the most commonly used fonts (for example, Times New Roman, Arial, etc.) with a font size of 10‒12 points. The CV should be no longer than two A4 pages.

The most common form of CV should include the following details:

  •       forename and surname; citizenship,
  •       address,
  •       telephone number,
  •       email address,
  •       education,
  •       continuing vocational training,
  •       work experience,
  •       language skills,
  •       other skills (IT, driving licence, etc.),
  •      hobbies. You may also add references – this is not obligatory but may increase the candidate’s chances. Include your desired salary in the CV if       requested in the job offer.

Larger companies may have their own CV format, which can be found on the website of the relevant company.

Covering letter

The covering letter should include answers to the following questions:

  •       What are your goals in the new position?
  •       What three to five positive traits can you highlight for your future employer?
  •       How do you link your previous work experience to the job on offer?
  •       Why would you like to work for this particular company?
  •       Why are you the best candidate for this role?
  •       Where did you find out about this job?

A letter of motivation

The main function of a letter of motivation is to answer the potential employer’s question: ‘Why should I hire this person in particular?’. A letter of motivation gives you the opportunity to emphasise the aspects specified in your CV which you consider to be so important that you want to stress them separately. A letter of motivation should not be very long, and certainly no longer than one A4 page.

Job interview

You will make a good impression on the employer if you read up on the company before you go to the interview. Familiarise yourself with the organisation’s website and read anything that has been written about them in the newspapers. The more you know about the company and the job on offer, the better your chances are of getting the job. Be prepared to answer any questions you may be asked during the interview and prepare questions you would like to ask the employer. Before attending the interview, prepare any necessary documentation you may need (CV, information about the company, and diplomas). If your references are separate from your CV, bring these along too. Sometimes, people are asked to conduct a general test or an aptitude test during the interview in order to find out if you are suitable for the job. A positive reply or message that you have been hired is usually given over the telephone. A negative answer is usually provided via e-mail or by letter. You can read more about preparing for the job interview elsewhere, such as, for example, on the websites of CV Keskus and CV-Online (see the links).

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Finding housing

Housing – apartment or house – must be rented or bought in Estonia. You can rent property that is furnished or unfurnished (more often, especially in the case of apartments, it will be furnished) both from the owner or via a property agency. It is always useful to get help from friends or acquaintances when looking for a place to live. Your employer may also be able to help with finding or recommending a place to live. Sometimes accommodation is provided with a job. This is the case mainly in rural areas and is common, for example, for teaching and agricultural jobs. The rental and buying prices of property vary across Estonia’s various regions. Prices are at their highest in Harju County (especially in Tallinn), and lower outside the city centres and in smaller towns and rural areas. The buying prices of real estate in Harju County (Tallinn) reach an average of EUR 1 500‒3 000 per square metre. The prices for rental flats in Harju County (Tallinn) vary between EUR 350 to EUR 2 000 a month depending on the location, the state of the flat, and the number of rooms. In general, utility charges will be added to the rental price. When renting a dwelling, you should consider that a one-month prepayment, deposit and, if you rent through a real estate agency, an agency fee (between half and a full month’s rent) is generally required.

Places to find property offers.

Estate agents

Estate agents can help you find housing in a highly professional manner but, given the obligatory commission, this is also the most expensive option. Since a property transaction involves large sums of money, especially when buying, it is advisable to check the company’s background and use a reliable estate agent.

The internet

You will find property portals online and can use these to familiarise yourself with an overview of the current property situation, the sales databases of property, options available to you in terms of buying, renting, or selling flats. Asking any of your friends who have made property transactions lately is always an option, and they can tell you how they managed the process.

Various social media groups.

When looking for a rental property, it is a good idea to join relevant social media groups (for example, ‘Korterite üürimine maaklerita’ on Facebook), where users can often find rental offers directly from owners, without paying any agency commission.

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Recognition of academic diplomas and qualifications

The importance of transparency and mutual recognition of diplomas as a crucial complement to the free movement of workers

The possibility of obtaining recognition of one’s qualifications and competences can play a vital role in the decision to take up work in another EU country. It is therefore necessary to develop a European system that will guarantee the mutual acceptance of professional competences in different Member States. Only such a system will ensure that a lack of recognition of professional qualifications will become an obstacle to workers’ mobility within the EU.

Main principles for the recognition of professional qualifications in the EU

As a basic principle, any EU citizen should be able to freely practice their profession in any Member State. Unfortunately the practical implementation of this principle is often hindered by national requirements for access to certain professions in the host country.

For the purpose of overcoming these differences, the EU has set up a system for the recognition of professional qualifications. Within the terms of this system, a distinction is made between regulated professions (professions for which certain qualifications are legally required) and professions that are not legally regulated in the host Member State.

Steps towards a transparency of qualifications in Europe

The European Union has taken important steps towards the objective of achieving transparency of qualifications in Europe:

  • An increased co-operation in vocational education and training, with the intention to combine all instruments for transparency of certificates and diplomas, in one single, user-friendly tool. This includes, for example, the European CV or Europass Trainings.
  • The development of concrete actions in the field of recognition and quality in vocational education and training.

Going beyond the differences in education and training systems throughout the EU

Education and training systems in the EU Member States still show substantial differences. The last enlargements of the EU, with different educational traditions, have further increased this diversity. This calls for a need to set up common rules to guarantee recognition of competences.

In order to overcome this diversity of national qualification standards, educational methods and training structures, the European Commission has put forward a series of instruments, aimed at ensuring better transparency and recognition of qualifications both for academic and professional purposes.

  1. The European Qualifications Framework

The European Qualifications Framework is a key priority for the European Commission in the process of recognition of professional competences. The main objective of the framework is to create links between the different national qualification systems and guarantee a smooth transfer and recognition of diplomas.

  1. The National Academic Recognition Information Centres (NARICs)

A network of National Academic Recognition Information Centres was established in 1984 at the initiative of the European Commission. The NARICs provide advice on the academic recognition of periods of study abroad. Located in all EU Member States as well as in the countries of the European Economic Area, NARICs play a vital role the process of recognition of qualifications in the EU.

  1. The European Credit Transfer System (ECTS)

The European Credit Transfer System aims at facilitating the recognition of periods of study abroad. Introduced in 1989, it functions by describing an education programme and attaching credits to its components. It is a key complement to the highly acclaimed student mobility programme Erasmus.

  1. Europass

Europass is an instrument for ensuring the transparency of professional skills. It is composed of five standardised documents

  • a CV (Curriculum Vitae),
  • a language passport,
  • certificate supplements,
  • diploma supplements, and
  • a Europass-Mobility document.

The Europass system makes skills and qualifications clearly and easily understood in the different parts of Europe. In every country of the European Union and the European Economic Area, national Europass centres have been established as the primary contact points for people seeking for information about the Europass system.

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Types of employment

In order to be employed in Estonia, a person must be at least 18 years old and have an active legal capacity or restricted active legal capacity.

The Public Service Act regulates the service relationships of state officials and local government officials. Pursuant to this Act, an Estonian citizen no younger than 18 years of age, who has at least a secondary education and is proficient in Estonian to the extent provided by law, may be employed as a state or local government official. Only persons aged 21 or over may be appointed to the higher positions as senior officials or civil servants.
A citizen of a Member State of the European Union who conforms to the requirements established by law may also be employed in the service on that basis. If the relevant institution exercises official authority or if it safeguards the public interest, the nominee must be a citizen of Estonia.

The legal framework for foreign citizens working in Estonia is set out in the Aliens Act. The employment rights of foreign citizens who permanently reside in Estonia, as well as those pertaining to stateless persons, are the same as those of Estonian citizens.

An employer can either be a natural person with active legal capacity or restricted active legal capacity or a legal person with a passive legal capacity. The employer and the employee usually conclude a written employment contract. A written employment contract is not necessary when the duration of the employment contract will not exceed a period of 2 weeks. An employment contract may be entered into for an unspecified or specified term. It is presumed that an employment contract being entered into is for an unspecified term. An employment contract may be entered into for a specified term if this can be justified on valid grounds, which arise from the temporary fixed-term characteristics of the work, especially in terms of a temporary increase in work volume or when conducting seasonal work. An employment contract may be entered into for a specified term normally of up to 5 years.

Seasonal work is activity dependent on a season listed in a regulation of the Government of the Republic referred to in the Aliens Act: fishing and aquaculture; forestry and logging; crop and animal production, hunting and related service activities; accommodation services; food and beverage service activities; manufacture of food products; manufacture of soft drinks.

-  EU and EFTA nationals do not need to register for seasonal work. They can work in Estonia without registering a temporary right of residence for up to 3 months under the same conditions as Estonian nationals.

-  Third-country nationals who are temporarily staying in Estonia (e.g. based on a visa or visa-free regime) can work for a maximum of 12 months during a 15-month period and in the case of seasonal work for a maximum of 9 months during a 12-month period. In order to enable such work, the employer must register the foreign national’s short-term employment with the Police and Border Guard Board and the foreign national must have a legal basis to stay in Estonia. The employer must conclude a fixed-term employment contract with the foreign national or make a binding offer of employment before registration. The detailed information and documents required to register the employee can be found on the website of the Police and Border Guard Board.

More information on working and on working conditions can be found via the Labour Inspectorate and the Working Life portal.

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Employment contracts

In Estonia, working on the basis of an employment contract is regulated by the Employment Contracts Act and the Law of Obligations Act. On the basis of an employment contract, a natural person (employee) carries out work for another person (employer) in subordination to the management and under the direction of the employer. The employer remunerates employee for such work. Pursuant to valid legislation, the employer and the employee usually conclude a written contract of employment.

A written employment contract shall contain at least the following details:

  •        the employer’s details and those of the employee (name, personal identification code or registry code, place of residence or establishment);
  •        the date of entry into the employment contract and commencement of work by the employee;
  •        in the case of a fixed-term employment contract, the duration of the contract and the reason for entry into a fixed-term contract;
  •        the official title if this has a legal consequence;
  •       a description of duties;
  •       the place or region of performance of work;
  •     salary conditions (the agreed remuneration payable for the work (wages), any allowances, the manner of calculation of the remuneration, the procedure for payment, and the time of falling due of wages (pay day), along with any taxes and payments payable and withheld by the employer);
  •       other benefits if agreed upon;
  •       the time when the employee performs the agreed duties (working time);
  •       the duration of holiday;
  •      a reference to the terms for any advance notice of cancellation of the employment contract or the terms for any advance notice of cancellation of the employment contract;
  •      a reference to the rules of work organisation established by the employer;
  •      a reference to a collective agreement if a collective agreement is applicable with regard to the employee.

An employment contract is entered into by means of duplicate original copies, one of which is retained by the employee and one by the employer. An employment contract will also be deemed to have been entered into if an employee commences work which, given the circumstances, can be expected to be done only for remuneration. An employment contract may be amended only following agreement between all parties concerned.

Amendments to the conditions of an employment contract are formalised in writing in the employment contract. If a dispute should arise between the employer and the employee, both parties have the right to turn to a labour dispute committee or courts for redress.

More information on the employment contract conditions (such as probation period length, the obligations of the employer and the employee, suspension of the employment contract or termination conditions of the contract) can be found via the Labour Inspectorate and the Working Life portal.

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Working hours

The general national standard working limit in Estonia is 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week. Standard days off are Saturday and Sunday. If work is carried out on a Saturday or Sunday due to the requirement for an uninterrupted production process or the need to provide services to the public, days off are granted on other consecutive weekdays. If the total working time is recorded, then the maximum working time which has been agreed with the employee is recorded over a seven-day period during the recording period.

Reduced working time is:

for minors:

for those aged 7 to 12 it is 2 hours per day and 12 hours per 7 days during the study term outside of school hours and 3 hours per day and 15 hours per 7 days during school breaks;

for employees aged 13 to 14 or those subject to obligatory school attendance it is 2 hours per day and 12 hours per 7 days during the study term outside of school hours and 7 hours per day and 35 hours per 7 days during school breaks.

In the case of an employee who is 15 years of age and not subject to the obligation to attend school it is 8 hours a day and 40 hours per week.

Up to 7 hours per day or up to 35 hours per week for workers performing work underground, work of a special nature or work that is damaging to their health.

Up to 7 hours per day or 35 hours per week for teachers and educators working in schools and other child care institutions and for other persons working in the area of teaching and education.

Total working time, including overtime, may not exceed an average of 48 hours per week over a 4-month recording period. The recording period may be extended by a collective agreement to up to 12 months in the case of health care professionals, welfare workers, agricultural workers, and tourism workers.

Night work.

The night is defined as being the period between 22:00 and 06:00 hours. An employee who works at least 3 hours of their daily working time or at least one third of their annual working time at night (night worker) and whose health may be affected by a working environment hazard or by the characteristics of their work may work a total of 8 hours over a 24-hour period. This restriction does not apply to healthcare professionals or welfare workers, unless the work may be harmful to their health or safety.

Employees who are minors or subject to obligatory school attendance, as well as pregnant women or employees who are not allowed to perform night work due to a doctor’s decision, cannot be required to work at night.

Persons subject to the obligation to attend school are not allowed to work immediately before the beginning of the school day. Pregnant women or employees in possession of a doctor’s note cannot be required to work during the night. A person raising a child under 12 years or age or a disabled child, or a person taking care of a person with total work incapacity, may be required to work during night hours only with their prior consent.

Shortening the working day by 3 hours on working days preceding New Year’s Day, the anniversary of the Republic of Estonia, Victory Day, and Christmas Eve is compulsory for the employer.

More information about working time can be obtained via the Labour Inspectorate. Working hours are regulated by the Employment Contracts Act.

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Leave (paid annual leave, parental leave, etc.)

In Estonia, leave is regulated by the Employment Contracts Act. Leave which is granted according to the nature of the work and working conditions may include annual leave, which includes extended leave, additional leave, and parental leave. Annual leave, additional leave and additional childcare leave are granted under the terms of an employment contract, and to civil servants on the basis of the number of years they have worked. One year worked is classed as being a year which commences on the day upon which a person starts work with an employer and continues until the same day on the following year. The duration of any annual leave is calculated on the basis of calendar days, excluding national and public holidays. The length of the employee’s annual holiday is 28 calendar days. Extended annual leave is granted to: minors – 35 calendar days; persons who are granted incapacity benefit or a national pension – 35 calendar days; state officials and local government officials – 35 calendar days; academic and research staff – 56 calendar days.

The provision of study leave for full-time education or in-service training is governed by the Adult Education Act.

If employees have worked at least 6 months during their first year of employment, they are entitled to be granted leave in proportion to the number of months they have worked. By agreement between both parties, leave may be granted in full during the first working year, regardless of the amount of time worked.

The employer will pay holiday pay to the employee for annual leave and additional leave. Holiday pay is to be paid in full no later than on the penultimate working day before the start of the holiday.

An employee must apply to their employer for leave, if such a procedure has been established by the employer. A holiday schedule for every calendar year is generally prepared during the month of January but, by agreement with the employer, holidays can also be taken at a time other than that provided in the holiday schedule. Employers are entitled to refuse to divide annual holidays into periods which are shorter than 7 days. Unused holiday entitlement is transferred over to the next calendar year. Upon the termination of an employment contract, the employer must financially compensate the employee for any unused annual holiday where the right to such holiday entitlement has not expired. Annual holiday entitlement expires within 1 year of the end of the calendar year for which that holiday entitlement has been calculated. Any expiry is suspended for a period during which an employee is on pregnancy, maternity, or parental leave, and also during any period in which an employee is performing military or alternative service.

The Estonian national holiday is Independence Day on 24 February, which is also a public holiday. Other public holidays are on 1 January – New Year’s Day; Good Friday; Easter Sunday; 1 May – May Day; Whitsun; 23 June – Victory Day; 24 June – Midsummer Day; 20 August – Day of Restoration of Independence; 24 December – Christmas Eve; 25 December – Christmas Day; 26 December – Boxing Day.

Parental leave

On the basis of a certificate for maternity leave, a woman has the right to pregnancy and maternity leave of 140 calendar days. In the case of a multiple birth or a delivery with complications, pregnancy and maternity leave of 154 calendar days is granted. A woman has the right to commence pregnancy and maternity leave a total of 70 days at most before the expected date of delivery and no later than 30 calendar days before the estimated date of delivery, as determined by a doctor.

A person adopting a child under 10 years of age who is not descended from the adoptive parent and for whom the adoptive parent is not a step-parent receives adoptive parent’s leave of 70 calendar days as of the day on which the adoption ruling enters into force.

A mother or father is granted parental leave at their request in order to care for a child of up to 3 years of age. Parental leave can be used in several parts; 14 days of advance notice must always be given.

With regard to children born on 1 July 2020 or later, fathers are entitled to a new additional parental benefit for fathers for 30 calendar days. For working fathers, this is accompanied by a new paternity leave of 30 calendar days.

The amount of the additional parental allowance for fathers is calculated in the same way as the normal parental allowance, on the basis of the amount of income subject to social security contributions that the recipient earned during the reference period of the parental allowance. The reference period for parental allowance is the 12 calendar months preceding the 9 full months before the birth of the child.

It is irrelevant for the purposes of using the paternity leave whether the child's father is unemployed, a public servant, an employee or in any other legal relationship. It is also irrelevant whether the child’s father is married to the mother or not.

In each calendar year, a mother or father has the right to receive additional child leave for three working days if the parent in question has one or two children under 14 years of age; and for six working days if they have at least three children under 14 years of age, or at least one child under 3 years of age. Child care leave is paid on the basis of the minimum wage.

In the year in which the child turns three or fourteen years of age, child leave is granted regardless of whether the birth date of the child in question falls before or after the child leave.

At the request of the employee, the employer is required to grant additional unpaid child care leave to a parent, guardian or caregiver raising a child under 14 years of age. The employer is also obliged to grant additional unpaid child care leave (up to 10 days) to a parent, guardian or caregiver who is raising a disabled child under the age of 18.

Further information about leave is available via the Labour Inspectorate and can be found in the Employment Contracts Act.

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Remuneration

The minimum wage in Estonia has been established with the regulation of the Government of the Republic and, since 1 January 2021, the minimum hourly salary has been set at EUR 3.48 while the minimum monthly salary has been set at EUR 584. In Estonia, it is illegal to pay anyone a salary that is lower than the national minimum wage. When a person starts work, a gross salary and the conditions for changes in remuneration are agreed upon with the employer. Normally, a basic salary is agreed, but some companies also offer performance-based pay. If the remuneration paid according to agreement has not been agreed on or the agreement cannot be proven, the amount of remuneration is calculated on the basis of the collective pay agreement. If there is no collective pay agreement, then the salary is the amount usually paid for similar work under similar circumstances. Salary conditions specified in an employment contract can be changed only by agreement of the parties. The public sector uses a system of salary scales with additional performance pay opportunities.

A salary is usually paid once a month, unless a shorter term has been agreed upon. The employer has to transfer the salary to the employee’s bank account unless both parties have agreed otherwise. As a general rule, companies issue an electronic pay slip with the salary, containing details of the basic salary, any additional remuneration, bonuses, additional payments, and deducted taxes. If a probationary period is in place, a lower salary may be paid during this period.

Employers’ remunerations are subject to deductions of income tax, unemployment insurance contributions and, for persons who were born in 1983 or later, contributions to a compulsory funded pension. For further information on amounts of remuneration please refer to Statistics Estonia; on payment arrangements to the Labour Inspectorate; on deductions from wages to the Tax and Customs Board; and on pensions to the Pension Centre.

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Termination of employment

An employment contract may be terminated by cancellation, by means of agreement between the parties, upon the expiry of the period in question and upon the death of the employee or the employer (if the employer is self-employed). Upon the cancellation of the employment contract, all claims connected to that position of employment become claimable.

Both the employer and the employee are required to give each other advance notice in writing of the termination of an employment contract.

An employer may terminate an employment contract due to the expiry of its period of validity by providing notice of their intention to do so. An employer must provide an employee with advance notice, with the length of such notice being dependant on the duration of the period of employment: less than 1 year means 15 calendar days, including the term of the probationary period; between 1 and 5 years means 30 calendar days; between 5 and 10 years means 60 calendar days; more than 10 years means 90 calendar days. Different dates may be specified under a collective agreement. An employee must notify the employer if they wish to cancel an employment contract: an ordinary period of notice is set at 30 calendar days; in exceptional circumstances there is no need to provide advance notice. During the probationary period, both parties may cancel the contract by notifying the other party 15 calendar days in advance.

Restrictions on cancellation

An employer may not cancel a contract for the following reasons: the employee is pregnant or is entitled to pregnancy or maternity leave; the employee is carrying out important family duties; the employee is not, in the short term, coping with their duties due to the state of their health; the employee represents other employees on the grounds provided by law; the full-time employee does not wish to continue working part-time, or the part-time employee does not wish to continue working full-time; the employee is in military service or alternative service.

An employment contract may be cancelled by means of a declaration of cancellation in a format which can be reproduced in writing. Employers must state the reasons for any cancellation. Employees must state the reasons for any cancellation under exceptional circumstances.

If an employer cancels an employment contract under exceptional circumstances, the employer must grant the employee in question reasonable time off to search for a new job within the period of advance notice of the cancellation.

Upon cancelling an employment contract due to a lay-off, an employer must pay an employee compensation of one month’s average salary. According to the employee’s length of employment, compensation from the Unemployment Insurance Fund amounting to one or two months’ salary is added to that amount. If an employee cancels an employment contract under exceptional circumstances because their employer is in fundamental breach of the contract, the employer must pay the employee compensation of three months’ average salary. A court or labour dispute committee may change the amount of any compensation, taking into account the circumstances behind the cancellation of the employment contract and the interests of the parties. If a fixed-term contract is cancelled for economic reasons (bankruptcy), the employer must pay the employee an amount in compensation which corresponds to the salary to which the employee would have been entitled up until the expiry of the contract.

It is also possible to stop working due to retirement. The Estonian pension system is divided into three pillars: pillar I, the state pension, pillar II, the compulsory funded pension; and pillar III, the supplementary funded pension.

The state pension is a national pension insurance based on the principle of solidarity, under which today’s taxpayers are paying the pensions of today’s pensioners. There are two types of state pension in Estonia: pensions based on work contributions (old-age pension, incapacity benefit and survivor’s pension) and the minimum or national pension.

As of 1 January 2017, persons are entitled to an old-age pension once they have reached 65 years of age. The transitional period has been established for persons who were born between 1954 and 1960, whose pension age will rise gradually by 3 months for every additional birth year, and reaches 65 years by 2026. The old-age pension depends on employment contributions and is calculated on the basis of the length of employment years and shares of insurance.

The types of old-age pension available are early-retirement, deferred, and old-age pension on favourable terms.

The national pension is the minimum pension granted to persons who are not entitled to receive the old-age pension that depends on their work contribution. The national pension is granted to persons who lack the necessary number of working years and who have resided in Estonia on the basis of a permanent residence permit or temporary residence permit or temporary right of residence for at least 5 years immediately before claiming their pension. The national pension is set at EUR 221.63 a month.

From 1 January 2013 an additional pension for raising a child is calculated alongside the old-age pension, the pension for incapacity for work, and the survivor’s pension. For further information, see the Pension Centre’s website (covering the parental pension).

The compulsory funded pension is based on pre-financing – an employed person funds their pension themselves by paying 2% of their gross salary into their pension fund. To that the state adds 4% from the 33% social tax which is calculated based on the employee’s salary.

The supplementary funded pension is an additional voluntary private pension which enables people to save more in order to maintain their established standard of living in their old age.

For further information on matters relating to employment contracts, please refer to a solicitor or lawyer or to the Labour Inspectorate.

Additional information on the types of pensions in Estonia is available via the websites of the Social Insurance Board, the Ministry of Social Affairs, and the Pension Centre.

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Healthcare

As a rule, it is necessary to have health insurance in order to receive medical care in Estonia.

According to the Health Insurance Act, an insured person is a permanent resident of the Republic of Estonia or a person living in Estonia by virtue of a temporary residence permit or by right of permanent residence, who pays social tax for themselves or for whom the payer of social tax is required to pay social tax, or a person considered equal to such persons on the basis of this act or on the basis of an according contract. Anyone under 19 years of age is guaranteed health insurance irrespective of whether their parents are employed or unemployed. Persons who are not officially employed are not entitled to the health insurance cover that workers receive.

The Estonian healthcare system is based on family doctors, which means that your family doctor is your first point of contact if and when you fall ill. A family doctor provides general medical care and advice on preventive measures against illnesses, injuries, and poisoning. If necessary, the family doctor will refer you to a specialist doctor for consultation, or to a hospital. It is advisable that you select a family doctor close to your home. Family doctors have no fixed catchment area. You must apply in writing to a family doctor in order to be included in their practice list. Prior to applying, it is advisable to inform the family doctor of your intent, as the doctor has the right to refuse your application (such as, for instance, if the doctor’s list is regarded as being full). If a family doctor has not informed you of any refusal to admit you to their practice list within seven days of submitting the application, you will be included on their practice list from the first day of the month following the submission of the application. You can check the name of your family doctor under the e-services section via the online banking systems of Estonian banks, via the e-services portal, or by phoning the Health Insurance Fund’s customer service number: +372 669 6630.

For information on family doctors please refer to social and healthcare institutions in your county, regional offices of the Estonian Health Insurance Fund, or the Fund’s website.

In order to call for an ambulance in Estonia, you should dial the single emergency alarm centre number, 112. The ambulance service provides primary medical care to anyone who is currently within Estonia, regardless of their nationality or citizenship. There is a national family doctor helpline, on speed dial 1220 (please dial +372 634 6630 when phoning from abroad), which can provide advice on various health problems. Phone advice is free for the first five minutes of a national call from a landline and is charged at the local rate per minute after that, or is charged at the operator’s standard rate per minute from the start of the call when calling from a mobile phone.

Medication can be bought from pharmacies. Information on subsidised medicines is available via your doctor and the Estonian Health Insurance Fund.

Additional information on medical care and health insurance is available from the Estonian Health Insurance Fund.

Text last edited on: 05/2021

Income and taxation

In the third quarter of 2020, the average gross monthly salary in Estonia was EUR 1 441. The highest salaries are paid in the information and communications sector and the lowest in the accommodation and catering sector.

The average monthly gross salary was:

  •     in the information and communications sector: EUR 2 585.00
  •     in the financial and insurance activities sector: EUR 2 372.00
  •     in the electricity and gas supply sector: EUR 1 949.00
  •     in the mining sector: EUR 1 672.00
  •     in the public administration and national defence sector: EUR 1 793.00
  •     in professional, scientific, and technical activities: EUR 1 717.00
  •     in the healthcare and social welfare sector: EUR 1 555.00
  •     in the construction sector: EUR 1 423.00
  •      in the water supply, sewerage, waste and pollution management sector: EUR 1 386.00
  •      in the transportation and storage sector: EUR 1 355.00
  •      in the manufacturing sector: EUR 1 400.00
  •      in the wholesale and retail trade sector: EUR 1 175.00
  •      in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector: EUR 1 278.00
  •      in the real estate sector: EUR 1 010.00
  •      in the education sector: EUR 1 343.00
  •      in the arts, entertainment, and leisure sector: EUR 1 189.00
  •      in the hotels and catering sector: EUR 852.00
  •      in other service sectors: EUR 1 171.00

The tax system in Estonia consists of state taxes which are provided for by relevant taxation acts, and local taxes which are imposed by a rural municipality or urban council within its administrative area pursuant to law.

The following state taxes are levied in Estonia: income tax, social tax, land tax, gambling tax, value added tax, customs duty, excise duties, heavy goods vehicle tax, unemployment insurance contributions, and contributions to a compulsory funded pension. The following local taxes are also levied: sales tax, boat tax, advertisement tax, road and street closure tax, motor vehicle tax, animal tax, entertainment tax, and parking charges.

The following taxes are of the greatest importance to an employee: income tax, social tax, unemployment insurance contributions, and contributions to a compulsory funded pension.

Income tax

The first thing to find out before coming to Estonia to work is whether Estonia has a valid bilateral taxation agreement with your home country. If this is the case and you stay in Estonia for less than 183 days during any 12-month period and are paid from outside of Estonia by an employer who is not permanently established in Estonia, then your income is taxed in your home country and Estonia has no grounds for taxation. If just one of the above conditions is not met, Estonia has the right to tax your income. If there is no bilateral taxation agreement and you stay in Estonia for less than 183 days in any 12-month period and are paid by the state of Estonia, a local government body or a resident or non-resident company which is operating in Estonia and which has a registered permanent establishment in Estonia, then Estonia has the right to tax the income you have earned in Estonia. If you remain in Estonia for more than 183 days in any 12-month period, then you become a resident in Estonia for tax purposes under Estonian law and are required to declare in Estonia all the income you have earned during a given tax year (income earned in both Estonia and in other countries).

The natural person income tax rate in Estonia in 2021 is 20%. From 1 January 2018, the unified tax-free income rate is applied to all income up to EUR 6 000 per year, or up to EUR 500 per month. The exact amount of tax-free income depends on the size of the taxed income of the individual. If all income (wages, bonuses, rental income, dividends, etc.) is less than EUR 1 200 per month, then the tax-free income is EUR 500 of the total. If the income exceeds EUR 2 100 per month, no tax-free income can be deducted, and if the income is between EUR 1 201 and EUR 2 099, the tax-free income which will be deducted from income will gradually decrease from EUR 500 to EUR 0.

A resident natural person is required to submit an income tax return to the regional tax office of the Tax and Customs Board showing income earned during a tax period, ensuring that the return reaches the board no later than 31 March in the year following the end of the tax period in question. An e-service which is provided by the Tax and Customs Board allows you to submit your tax return by as early as 15 February of the year following the end of the tax year in question. A non-resident is required to submit an income tax return to the Tax and Customs Board showing all taxable earnings during a calendar year, ensuring that it reaches the board no later than 31 March of the following year. If a non-resident transfers (sells) an immovable asset, or a building or a flat as a movable asset, that person must submit an income tax return within a month of the transaction taking place. Income tax returns are submitted to a regional tax centre of the Tax and Customs Board.

Social tax

Social tax is a financial obligation which is imposed on taxpayers in order to be able to gather the revenue required for pension insurance and state health insurance payments. Social tax is paid by employers and self-employed persons against their business income and, in special circumstances, by the Estonian state for various persons specified in the Social Tax Act. The rate for social tax in Estonia is 33% of taxable income. The proportion of social tax which is transferred into the state pension insurance funds amounts to 20% of the total, and the proportion of social tax which is transferred into the state health insurance funds amounts to 13%.

Unemployment insurance premium

Unemployment insurance is compulsory when working in Estonia. It serves to insure employees against unemployment, the collective termination of employment contracts or employer insolvency. Benefits are funded from unemployment insurance contribution payments. In 2018, the employee’s unemployment insurance contribution is 1.6% of salary and other remunerations. The employer’s contribution is 0.8% of the salary fund. The rate for the unemployment insurance contribution is established by the Supervisory Board of the Unemployment Insurance Fund. The unemployment insurance premium is not compulsory for workers who have reached pensionable age; workers who are receiving the early retirement pension; self-employed persons; business entities that are legal persons; and also members of the Riigikogu, the president of the republic, members of the government, members of local government councils, the Auditor General, the Chancellor of Justice, and judges.

Compulsory funded pension payment

People paying into a funded pension can be divided into two groups: those who have the obligation to join and those who join voluntarily. The contribution rate for the compulsory funded pension is 2% of taxable income. For people who have the obligation to join, the obligation to make contributions begins on 1 January of the year following the year in which a relevant contributor attains 18 years of age. Persons born before 1 January 1983 have the right and the obligation to make contributions to a compulsory funded pension if they have submitted an application to join the pension payment system of their own will. The contribution is withheld by all employers operating in Estonia.

The Tax and Customs Board can provide further information on the Estonian tax system.

Text last edited on: 05/2021

Educational system

The educational system in Estonia consists of four levels: pre-school, primary, secondary, and higher education. Estonian educational institutions provide the following forms of study: daytime studies, evening studies, part-time and full-time studies, distance learning, external studies, home studies and individual studies.

A child must attend school if they have attained 7 years of age by 1 October of the year in question. Studying is compulsory until acquiring basic education or turning 17 years of age. In Estonia home schooling is deemed to meet the obligation to provide compulsory schooling.

Children of foreign citizens and stateless persons who reside in Estonia, excluding the children of representatives of foreign states, must attend school.

Estonian is the language of instruction in the majority of Estonian primary schools and upper secondary schools, but there are also primary and upper secondary schools in which the language of instruction is Russian. Estonian is generally the language of tuition in universities, institutions of professional higher education, and vocational educational institutions. There are a few universities that teach in English.

Primary education

In Estonia, primary education is provided by primary schools, which are usually linked to upper secondary schools. Primary schools include Years 1–9.

Upper secondary education

Estonian upper secondary education is divided into general secondary education and vocational secondary education.

General secondary education is provided by upper secondary schools, a ‘keskkool’ or ‘gümnaasium’ in Estonian. Upper secondary schools start with Year 10 and end with Year 12. The acquisition of a general secondary education provides the prerequisites for continuing one’s studies in terms of acquiring higher or vocational qualifications. A vocational secondary education is acquired on the basis of a person’s primary education or general secondary education, which then provides the prerequisites and grants the rights to start working in one’s chosen vocation or profession or to continue one’s studies in order to acquire higher qualifications.

Higher education

An Estonian higher education is divided into two: a vocational higher education and an academic education. A vocational higher education is provided in Estonia by vocational higher education institutions while an academic education is provided by universities. A higher education is also offered by some vocational educational institutions. Those institutions which offer higher education are divided into state-owned and publicly or privately owned institutions. As a rule, studying in state institutions of vocational higher education and universities is for free. Private universities and institutions charge tuition fees.

There are three levels of higher education: Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral.

Further information on the educational system in Estonia is available via the Ministry of Education and Research.

Text last edited on: 05/2021

Cultural and social life

Estonian cultural and social life is very varied and has a long tradition behind it, with its inseparable elements comprising the theatre, music, the cinema, art, etc. In summer, various open air performances and concerts take place in Estonia, with fairs and city or town days also being popular. A number of cultural events have become traditions and are widely known outside Estonia; one of these is the Viljandi Folk Music Festival, which takes place every year in the second half of July. There is a wide variety of museums and art galleries available in Estonia. Every bigger town has its own cinema, one which shows both international box office hits as well as Estonian films. There are a great many cafeterias, restaurants, bars, and pubs in Estonia. You can find cuisine here from practically all over the world.

Those who like to spend time in nature can go hiking, hunting, or fishing. Hunting requires a permit, as does fishing in some cases. There are a great many tourism and leisure centres in Estonia, as well as tourism farms which offer accommodation and leisure activities. At these centres, one can enjoy riding, cycling, swimming, hiking, boating, canoeing, or kayaking. Estonia has a large number of nature reserves which feature nature trails and hiking trails, recreational sites, fire pits, and camping sites. Trips are often offered to historical locations or sites of natural beauty with them being led by experienced guides.

You can discover more about recreational opportunities by getting in touch with a social secretary, or a social or youth worker in your local authority district, or from tourist information points and via the internet.

Text last edited on: 05/2021

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