International Policy Fellowship 2003/2004
"The Influence of ethnicity on the Labor Market opportunities.
A test case of accepting multicultural diversity in
The evaluation of the national policies in the area of employment and integration of ethnic minorities reveals that until recently the issue of disadvantageous position of ethnic minorities on Estonian labour market has never being seriously acknowledged on the policy level as issue of the state concern.
1. Statement of the Problem
The national employment actions plans continuously fail to address the disadvantageous position of ethnic minorities on Estonian labour market. The national employment policy documents present the problem of ethnic minorities on the labour market as being contingent on two factors: regional disparities and lack of language learning. All other factors including possible inefficiencies of the existing legislation and implementing agencies as well as discriminatory attitudes of employers are left outside the policy considerations.
Moreover, even though the employment policy documents acknowledged the existence of regional disparities in unemployment level as well as lack of Estonian language proficiency it nevertheless not contributed to the search for viable solutions by national authorities to those issues. The national approach towards facilitation of the Estonian language learning among ethnic minorities is of questionable effectiveness. The national measures on language learning by ethnic minorities were often drafted and implemented without adequate consultations with representatives of the target group. The inadequate reflection of the needs and difficulties of ethnic minorities led to the adoption of the narrow policy options which reinforced the same policy mistakes and contributed to only a minimal progress towards improvement of the linguistic competence among ethnic minorities.
Based on the narrow definition of the problem of ethnic minorities on the Estonian labour market as depended mostly on lack of linguistic abilities with the substantial financial foreign assistance a number of attempts was made to increase the knowledge of the Estonian language among ethnic minorities. Although the programmes had some positive impact it would be overoptimistic to claim the substantial change in the situation with the Estonian language knowledge among ethnic minorities or the improvement of the position of national minorities on the labour market.
The problem of ethnic minorities on the labour market is nevertheless very urgent. Although the national statistical office reports the overall increase in the unemployment level in the country the percent point difference in unemployment among ethnic Estonians and ethnic non-Estonians growing. Ethnic minorities are strongly underrepresented among governmental officials, judiciary, legislators and top professionals. The gap in remuneration level among ethnic Estonians and non-ethnic Estonians is also growing reaching 18% in 2002.
The accession to the European Union and integration of the Estonian employment policy planning into the EU employment policy framework provides for a new impetus for addressing the position of ethnic minorities on Estonian labour market. The open method of coordination on which the European Employment Strategy is based, inter alia, contributes to the ongoing evaluation and flexible adjustments of the national employment policies. The continuous evaluation of the national employment policies on the EU level will make it increasingly difficult for national authorities to ignore the problem of ethnic minorities.
To facilitate further measures to remedy the disadvantageous position of ethnic minorities on the labour market following policy recommendations for national authorities are suggested.
1. The issue of disadvantageous position of ethnic minorities shall be considered during the development of the next National Action Plan by
2. In developing national documents in relation to the ethnic minority group more linguistic sensitivity is necessary. The exclusionary terms such as 'non-Estonians' should be strongly avoided to identify the ethnic minority group which lives in
3. Increasing attention need to be paid to a variety of possible causes of the disadvantageous position of ethnic minorities to ensure that policy options adopted by authorities therefore reflect real needs of the disadvantageous group. To this end it is necessary to commission various independent research studies that would collect information on the basis of which the policy choices might be construed. It is of the particular importance that studies commissioned by the state or regional authorities to identify the obstacles that ethnic minorities face on the labour market are conducted by professionals representing various ethnic groups. The results of the studies shall be carefully evaluated by national authorities responsible for the development of national employment policies
4. There are a number of positive steps adopted by the national authorities in relation to the availability of information related to the employment possibilities and assistance in Russian language. In this respect the opening by the Ministry of Social Affairs in 2003 of the web page in Russian language is very welcome. At the same time there is a strong need to publish more information materials for ethnic minorities in their native language related to the possible avenues to receive state assistance in employment related matters. Moreover a particular care shall be taken to ensure that information in Russian language is correctly compiled and does not contain evident and numerous linguistic mistakes.
5. The positive impact on the overall difficult situation on the labour market might bring the regular communications from the responsible agencies on the steps taken by authorities to remedy the situation. To this extent it will be of benefit to establish a workable link with mass media institutions both working in Estonian and Russian language to ensure that population is well informed on the steps taken by national authorities in relation to the disadvantageous groups.
7. Estonian a new member state of the EU shall adopt and implement acquie communitar including in employment policy in full. So far there is a very limited progress in adoption of national legislation implementing EU Race Directive. National provisions protecting individual from discrimination in employment are very limited and imprecise. Moreover the limited number of explicit legislative provisions promoting equal treatment is complicated by the lack of definition of discrimination, absence of specialized body on the promotion of equal treatment as well as lack of ‘reversed burden of proof’ guarantee.
8. The discussion at the national level should shift it focus from the issue of whether the language and citizenship laws are legitimate and justified state policies and rather address the issue of what can and should be done to ensure that these policies do not contribute to the increasing differences among ethnic groups.
9. It is necessary to discuss on the highest policy level the reasons leading to the disadvantageous position of ethnic minorities on the labour market and possible solutions taking into consideration a wide spectrum of possible options. The dialog with ethnic minorities in drafting viable policy option is currently underestimated though in practice crucial for success.
10. The existence of the possible discrimination in law in practice shall be carefully analysed by policy makers. It is alarming that until now
The adoption of the anti-discrimination law shall be supplemented by national educational and monitoring programs that would provide information to both employers and employees as regarding their rights and obligation in employment relations. Model codes of recruitment and employment policies for employers shall be developed.