The new body of international law directed to the protection of minority rights has emerged. The most resent international instruments, including the Council of the European Union Directive 2000/43/EC (The Race Equality directive) clearly support the ethnical and linguistic diversity in the contemporary society. Multiculturalism and respect for the minority right to language is being increasingly accepted by various nation states. Thus, for instance, in South Africa there are 11 official languages. Moreover, there are three types of language regulation regimes. In Switzerland each canton has its own linguistic policy. Another excellent example is Brussels - the capital of Belgium – which is officially recognized as a bilingual city.
The examples above demonstrate that it is possible to accommodate linguistic diversity, as well as that such accommodation is widely spread in the democratic societies. The attention to the minority interests in policy-making is important, as it is one of the elements of a just and democratic society for all. The refusal of diversity, not diversity itself, could be a reason for a conflict or aggravated social problems. Thus Estonia in fact is a multiethnic society; however, only one language, namely, Estonian is recognized as the official language. As a consequence there are strong indications that the Estonian language policy is inadequate to its factual situation and possibly causes social conflicts, discrimination and unjust segregation between native and non-native speakers.
There are over 100 minority groups living in Estonia contributing to approximately 34% of the population. The Russian language is used by the largest number of minority groups as their mother tongue. The official statistic demonstrates that 80% of the residents of Estonia have knowledge of Estonian, 72 % of Russian and 25% of English language . A question may be raised how the factual linguistic situation in Estonia is reflected in the country’s legal framework?
Article 1 of the Language Law stipulates that the only official language in Estonia is Estonian. Article 2 classifies all other languages as foreign. Moreover, the Language Law imposes mandatory use of the Estonian language for employees at the state, municipal and private institutions.
As a result the Estonian language proficiency requirements apparently
influence the employment situation in the country. Since 1993 ethnic
Estonians have been over-represented in the public administration .
Since 1995 a stabilisation of the labour market has been evident and its
vertical segmentation has crystallized Estonians’ prevalence among managers
and professionals, while the occupational status of minorities has been
lowered constantly. The occupational disadvantages of non-Estonians have
resulted in a noticeable loss of average remuneration level if compared
to Estonians’ average remuneration level. For example in 1999 for
30-39 year old non-Estonians with higher education the level of unemployment
was 6 times higher ! These facts are only some of the various illustrations
that call for evaluation official language policy.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Henrik Ilviste, in the beginning of this year denied any possibility of the discriminatory provisions in the legal acts of Estonia. He stated that the Estonian legislation on national minorities is in full compliance with the international norms. However, a number of recently published reports of international organizations concluded that protection of national minorities is not always addressed in an adequate manner in the legislative process and administrative practice. Despite certain recent improvements in the relevant legislation, there still remain serious shortcomings with respect to the use of minority languages in Estonia. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance recommends to the Estonian authorities monitoring the effects of legislation in the field of language.
Present research intends to examine the effect of the language policy
on the labour market for the ethnic minority groups and refugees
The situation at the labor market is taken to be a testing case by which it will be possible to say if the public policy making in Estonia accommodates the needs of the minority groups. The special attention will be paid to women in those groups as there are strong indications that women subject to double discrimination on the labour market, based on ethnicity and gender.
At present the ethnic minorities are at risk of exclusion and marginalization from the structures of the country and from the democratic process. Disadvantages in terms of economic and social position lead to the social divisions which may in turn evolve into ethnic tensions and effective separation of the majority/minority communities . This research hopes to remedy those exclusions and separation of society along the ethnic lines.
The study will be lead by using systems approach. Conclusions will be reached by the induction method. Findings will be based on interpretation and rational approach, therefore the qualitative method is more suitable this research.
The research will use primary and secondary data. At the end of
the research I will conduct interviews with Estonian law- and policy-makers,
employers, representatives of the non governmental organizations and labor
unions with a purpose to evaluate and weigh my own research findings against
the expectations and agendas of key players. I will attempt to carry out
at least 20 in-depth interviews. The rationale of the interviews is to
minimize the danger of producing a policy paper drafted in abstract terms,
and to bring the lessons of research as close to realistic political solutions
Apart from legal research (sections ii, v, iv) I will devote part of the project time to examining political science literature that can provide insights into the relationship between participation of minority groups in the policy making and the outcome of those policies on the social conditions, with a view to draw lessons for Estonia (sections i, iii)
The research will be based on the assumptions that the participation of the minority groups in the policy making process is the prerequisite for sound policy making and democratic governance in the multiethnic society;
The project’s preliminary plan is roughly as follows:
i) Policy formation, supporting institutions. how public policies come to be defined, constructed and placed on the political agenda in Estonia; who are the key participants (especially the Association of Employers); what is the environment in which public policies are formulated, adopted and implemented;
ii) Description of the policy. The legal analysis of the Estonian legal acts will be employed. It will examine the strengths and weaknesses of existing laws (Constitution, Language Law, etc.) which impact minority’s situation at the labor market. Explore the range of policy resources available to address minority needs. As a consequence, the Influence of the Policy on the labor market will be examined.
iii) Implementation. The role of the administrative institutions focusing on the Language Board; Influence of the decisions on those institutions on the processes on the labour market
iv) Judicial institutions: possibility for recovery for the discrimination based on language
v) Comparative legal analysis. The number of countries will be selected for the analyses of legislation and case law. Countries will be selected in such a way as to allow application of lessons to Estonia. As a rule, these will be countries with substantial linguistic minorities. I will look at laws in countries including but not limited to some of the following: Belgium, Switzerland, Finland and Canada. The conditions at the labor market for the selected target groups will be examined. Underlining international principles in the project field, including the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, and the case law of the European Union (particularly the prohibition of discrimination based on nationality as pertaining to free movement of workers and self-employed people) will be defined.
The evaluation of the language policy will be based on the works of
the western political theorists like W. Kymicka, C. Taylor, R. Baubock
and others that argue that learning to live with the public expression
and institutionalisation of ethnocultural diversity is a key precondition
for a stable and just democracy will be taken as a basis of this work.
The nature of the uncompetitive market will be acknowledged.
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