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, 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 offer career services to 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. Pan-Estonian online career fairs are held regularly. 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.
Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund
EURES Estonia portal
Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund
Estonian Public Service competition website
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. If you want to add a photo to your CV, it may be either a passport photo or just a portrait photo of the approximate size of 5x6 cm which is usually inserted in the upper right-hand corner of the CV. When choosing the photo, think what impression you would like to make on your employer. Sometimes a letter of motivation should be attached as well.
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.
A CV should include the following details:
- forename and surname;
- telephone number,
- email address,
- continuing vocational training,
- work experience,
- language skills,
- other skills (IT, driving licence, etc.),
- You may also add references – this is not obligatory but may increase the candidate’s chances. Include your desired salary in the CV if asked in the job offer.
Larger companies may have their own CV format, which can be found on the website of the relevant company.
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?
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.
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 – 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).
Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund
About a job interview at CV Keskus
In Estonia, traineeship and work practice are used synonymously.
Work practice provided by the Estonian public employment service is defined by the Labour Market Services and Benefits Act as a labour market service for gaining practical experience provided to unemployed persons by employers with the aim to improve the knowledge and skills needed for the employment of the unemployed persons.
According to the principles of service provision, the need for work practice is justified when the skills or knowledge of an unemployed person require improvement or if the person needs work experience in order to find employment and such skills and knowledge can be acquired during short-term traineeship.
Work practice that is supported by the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund is arranged through an administrative contract between the employer and the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund. Work practice contracts are concluded for up to four months and only with registered unemployed persons. No wages are paid.
The following have the right to receive the labour market services and benefits:
- aliens residing in Estonia on the basis of temporary residence permits or temporary right of residence;
- citizens of the European Union, European Economic Area, and the Swiss Confederation staying in Estonia;
- persons enjoying international protection staying in Estonia or asylum seekers staying in Estonia, under the conditions provided for in the Act on Granting International Protection to Aliens.
The principles of the traineeship service of the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund are in line with the general practice of traineeships laid down in the Quality Framework.
Living and working conditions
There are no specific conditions.
Where to find employment offers?
Workplaces suitable for traineeships are mainly offered to jobseekers by the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund. However, an unemployed person may also find a place for a traineeship by themselves with the assistance of the Unemployment Insurance Fund. Employers who want to offer traineeship opportunities at their enterprise contact the Unemployment Insurance Fund in order to find suitable applicants.
Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund’s website: https://www.tootukassa.ee/
Funding and support
Users of the traineeship service provided by the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund are entitled to receive a stipend (EUR 3.84 per day) and, if necessary, an accommodation and transport allowance. The rate of the accommodation and transport allowance is EUR 0.10 per kilometre, but not more than EUR 26 per day. The accommodation and transport allowance is calculated on the basis of two times the shortest distance between the place of the traineeship and the residence of the unemployed person. Distances shorter than 500 metres are not considered. Participants in this service who are old-age pensioners are paid no stipend or transport and accommodation allowance. Unemployed persons who are eligible for unemployment allowance continue to receive the allowance while using the traineeship service.
Where to advertise employment offers?
Employers can contact the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund directly or use the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s self-service portal.
Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund’s website: https://www.tootukassa.ee/
Funding and support
Employers offering traineeship opportunities must ensure supervision of the unemployed persons and for the supervision they receive remuneration from the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund. Employers are compensated for the costs based on the number of days they provide a traineeship. During the first month, the compensation is EUR 34.40 per day, this is reduced to EUR 25.80 during the second month and EUR 17.20 per day during the third and fourth month.
In 2006, workplace-based learning was approved as a new form of study and in 2007 the Vocational Educational Institutions Act was adopted as well as the Regulation of the Minister of Education and Research entitled ‘Procedure for the Application of Workplace-based Study’, which was updated and adapted in 2013 based on the new Vocational Educational Institutions Act. The workplace-based learning programmes complement the existing school-based learning programmes. In Estonia, workplace-based learning is defined as learning where the traineeship constitutes at least two thirds of the curriculum (in the case of school-based learning, the share of the traineeship is up to 50 per cent of the curriculum with half of the traineeship taking place in an enterprise).
Description of programmes
The workplace-based learning programmes complement the existing school-based learning programmes. In Estonia, workplace-based learning is defined as learning where the traineeship constitutes at least two thirds of the curriculum (in the case of school-based learning, the share of the traineeship is up to 50 per cent of the curriculum with half of the traineeship taking place in an enterprise).
The regulation on workplace-based learning is implemented as cooperation between the vocational educational institution, the student, and the enterprise that provides the traineeship opportunity. Workplace-based learning takes place in vocational educational institutions and in enterprises, this is supplemented with independent work by students in order for them to achieve the learning outcomes described in the curriculum.
The main principles of traineeship programmes are:
- one third of the curriculum is theoretical instruction and the remaining two thirds are made up of a traineeship at an enterprise;
- study groups are small;
- the structure of the learning programme is based on an agreement between the school and the enterprise: the enterprise, the school, and the trainee sign a tripartite traineeship contract that specifies the expected learning outcomes and the learning process. An expert's report on whether the workplace is suitable for achieving the objectives has to be attached to the contract;
- after completing their studies the trainee must pass a professional or final examination;
- the school must evaluate the workplace before signing the traineeship contract. This guarantees that the workplace can meet the objectives of the curriculum and ensure the health and safety of the trainee. The result of the vocational education institution evaluation is based on an expert's report, which is annexed to the tripartite contract between the school, the trainee, and the workplace. If the expert's report is a negative one, the vocational education institution cannot provide the traineeship;
- the trainee has two supervisors, one from the school and the other from the enterprise offering the traineeship.
In Estonia, Estonian is the primary language of instruction used for vocational training. In some vocational education institutions, Russian is also used as a language of instruction.
List of vocational education institutions: https://www.hm.ee/et/eesmargid-tegevused/kutseharidus
Occupational qualifications system: http://www.kutsekoda.ee/et/index
All EEA nationals can submit a study application. All the information on programme requirements is available on the websites of the schools.
Traineeships are not provided in the case of jobs for which a qualification determined by law or on the basis of a law and/or fulfilment of the requirements set out for professional training is required to start work and if the customer does not have the previously required competence (vocations regulated in Estonia).
Living and working conditions
There are no specific conditions.
Where to find employment offers?
All learning programmes and the list of schools can be found at http://kutseharidus.ee/
Websites of schools and list of vocational education institutions: https://www.hm.ee/et/eesmargid-tegevused/kutseharidus
Funding and support
No funding available.
Helpful information: https://www.hm.ee/et/eesmargid-tegevused/kutseharidus
Where to advertise employment offers?
Currently, local enterprises can communicate directly with vocational education institutions.
Funding and support
No funding available.
The free movement of goods is one of the cornerstones of the European Single Market.
The removal of national barriers to the free movement of goods within the EU is one of the principles enshrined in the EU Treaties. From a traditionally protectionist starting point, the countries of the EU have continuously been lifting restrictions to form a ‘common’ or single market. This commitment to create a European trading area without frontiers has led to the creation of more wealth and new jobs, and has globally established the EU as a world trading player alongside the United States and Japan.
Despite Europe’s commitment to breaking down all internal trade barriers, not all sectors of the economy have been harmonised. The European Union decided to regulate at a European level sectors which might impose a higher risk for Europe’s citizens – such as pharmaceuticals or construction products. The majority of products (considered a ‘lower risk’) are subject to the application of the so-called principle of mutual recognition, which means that essentially every product legally manufactured or marketed in one of the Member States can be freely moved and traded within the EU internal market.
Limits to the free movement of goods
The EU Treaty gives Member States the right to set limits to the free movement of goods when there is a specific common interest such as protection of the environment, citizens’ health, or public policy, to name a few. This means for example that if the import of a product is seen by a Member State’s national authorities as a potential threat to public health, public morality or public policy, it can deny or restrict access to its market. Examples of such products are genetically modified food or certain energy drinks.
Even though there are generally no limitations for the purchase of goods in another Member State, as long as they are for personal use, there is a series of European restrictions for specific categories of products, such as alcohol and tobacco.
Free movement of capital
Another essential condition for the functioning of the internal market is the free movement of capital. It is one of the four basic freedoms guaranteed by EU legislation and represents the basis of the integration of European financial markets. Europeans can now manage and invest their money in any EU Member State.
The liberalisation of capital markets has marked a crucial point in the process of economic and monetary integration in the EU. It was the first step towards the establishment of our European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and the common currency, the Euro.
The principle of the free movement of capital not only increases the efficiency of financial markets within the Union, it also brings a series of advantages to EU citizens. Individuals can carry out a broad number of financial operations within the EU without major restrictions. For instance, individuals with few restrictions can
- easily open a bank account,
- buy shares
- invest, or
- purchase real estate
in another Member State. EU Companies can invest in, own and manage other European enterprises.
Certain exceptions to this principle apply both within the Member States and with third countries. They are mainly related to taxation, prudential supervision, public policy considerations, money laundering and financial sanctions agreed under the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy.
The European Commission is continuing to work on the completion of the free market for financial services, by implementing new strategies for financial integration in order to make it even easier for citizens and companies to manage their money within the EU.
Housing – apartment or house – must be rented or bought in Estonia. You can rent property that is furnished or unfurnished 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 2 000‒4 000 per square metre. The prices for rental flats in Harju County (Tallinn) vary between EUR 300 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 (one month’s rent) is generally required.
Places to find property offers.
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.
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.
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.
In Estonia, a child must attend school if they are seven years old on 1 October of the year in question. At the parents’ request, a child who has reached his 6th birthday by 30 April of the year in question can also be admitted to school. The length of an academic year is at least 175 school days (35 weeks); there are five school holidays.
Children of foreign citizens and stateless persons who reside in Estonia, excluding the children of representatives of foreign states, must attend school. Obligatory school attendance can also be postponed due to medical reasons and home schooling is accepted as an alternative. No pupil will be excused from this obligation because of any disability or impediment. The basic education can also be acquired via a simplified curriculum, depending on the special needs and abilities of the child.
A student must attend school until they have acquired primary education (9 years of schooling) or have reached the age of 17. Estonia’s educational system allows you to choose a school depending on your preferred language of instruction. In general education schools, classes are taught in Estonian or Russian, but there are schools where some subjects are taught in English, German, or Swedish. Parents of a school-age child are free to choose schools, provided there are places available. All general education schools in Estonia have a catchment area, which means that the local authority is required to provide a place at a school for all children living in that catchment area. You may encounter difficulties if you send your child to a school in another catchment area if there are more children in that area than the school can accept (such as where the service area covers an entire town). Your child can attend a school in another area if there are places available.
Information on choosing schools is available on school websites, in information bulletins, and from local authorities and the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research.
Estonian Ministry of Education and Research
The implementation of the principle of free movement of people, is one of the cornerstones of our European construction, has meant the introduction a series of practical rules to ensure that citizens can travel freely and easily to any Member State of the European Union. Travelling across the EU with one’s car has become a lot less problematic. The European Commission has set a series of common regulations governing the mutual recognition of driving licences, the validity of car insurance, and the possibility of registering your car in a host country.
Your driving licence in the EU
The EU has introduced a harmonised licence model and further minimum requirements for obtaining a licence. This should help to keep unsafe drivers off Europe's roads - wherever they take their driving test.
Since 19 January 2013, all driving licences issued by EU countries have the same look and feel. The licences are printed on a piece of plastic that has the size and shape of a credit card.
Harmonised administrative validity periods for the driving licence document have been introduced which are between 10 and 15 years for motorcycles and passenger cars. This enables the authorities to regularly update the driving licence document with new security features that will make it harder to forge or tamper - so unqualified or banned drivers will find it harder to fool the authorities, in their own country or elsewhere in the EU.
The new European driving licence is also protecting vulnerable road users by introducing progressive access for motorbikes and other powered two-wheelers. The "progressive access" system means that riders will need experience with a less powerful bike before they go on to bigger machines. Mopeds will also constitute a separate category called AM.
You must apply for a licence in the country where you usually or regularly live. As a general rule, it is the country where you live for at least 185 days each calendar year because of personal or work-related ties.
If you have personal/work-related ties in 2 or more EU countries, your place of usual residence is the place where you have personal ties, as long as you go back regularly. You don't need to meet this last condition if you are living in an EU country to carry out a task for a fixed period of time.
If you move to another EU country to go to college or university, your place of usual residence doesn't change. However, you can apply for a driving licence in your host country if you can prove you have been studying there for at least 6 months.
Registering your car in the host country
If you move permanently to another EU country and take your car with you, you should register your car and pay car-related taxes in your new country.
There are no common EU rules on vehicle registration and related taxes. Some countries have tax-exemption rules for vehicle registration when moving with the car from one country to another permanently.
To benefit from a tax exemption, you must check the applicable deadlines and conditions in the country you wish to move to.
Check the exact rules and deadlines with the national authorities: https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/vehicles/registration/registration-abroad/index_en.htm
EU citizens can insure their car in any EU country, as long as the chosen insurance company is licensed by the host national authority to issue the relevant insurance policies. A company based in another Member State is entitled sell a policy for compulsory civil liability only if certain conditions are met. Insurance will be valid throughout the Union, no matter where the accident takes place.
Value Added Tax or VAT on motor vehicles is ordinarily paid in the country where the car is purchased, although under certain conditions, VAT is paid in the country of destination.
More information on the rules which apply when a vehicle is acquired in one EU Member State and is intended to be registered in another EU Member State is available on this link https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/vehicles/registration/taxes-abroad/index_en.htm.
A citizen of an EU Member State has the right to work in Estonia for a period of up to 3 months from the date of entering the country. This is also the case if the person has registered their right of residence (no work permit is required). A family member of an EU citizen is permitted to work in Estonia only if they have been granted the right of residence (no work permit is required). EU citizens and their family members have the legal right to live in Estonia if they have been granted right of residence, which can be temporary or permanent. Family members of EU citizens have the right to remain in Estonia for a period of up to 3 months, as long as they hold a valid travel document. Within this period, an application to be granted temporary right of residence must be submitted.
In order to be granted a temporary right of residence, the EU citizen must register their place of residence with the local government authority nearest to the place of residence, and no later than within 3 months of arriving in Estonia. The right of temporary residence is granted for a period of up to 5 years. The temporary right of residence is automatically extended for 5 years if your place of residence continues to be registered in Estonia. Within a period of 1 month from the granting of the temporary right of residence, the EU citizen in question must visit a service office of the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board in person in order to apply for a residence document (an ID card). When an ID card is no longer valid, the holder must apply for a new one.
An EU citizen has the right to permanent residence if this citizen has lived in Estonia permanently for 5 consecutive years on the basis of a temporary right of residence. A foreign citizen's permanent residence in Estonia refers to a foreign citizen residing in Estonia on the basis of the Estonian residence permit or right of residence. A new-born child of an EU citizen residing in Estonia on the basis of a right to permanent residence has the right to permanent residence. For registration of the right of permanent residence, the EU citizen in question must visit a service office of the Police and Border Guard Board. Applications for a residence permit, right of residence and registration of short-term employment can be submitted in Tammsaare (Tallinn), Pinna (Tallinn), Tartu, Pärnu, Narva and Jõhvi service offices of the Police and Border Guard Board.
The issuing of residence permits to third-country nationals and persons with undetermined citizenships is governed by the Aliens Act. A residence permit may be temporary or long-term.
A foreign national who applies for a residence permit falls under the immigration quota, which must not exceed 0.1% of the permanent population of Estonia annually.
More information related to the right of residence and residence permits in Estonia can be obtained from the Police and Border Guard Board as well as from their website.
Police and Border Guard Board
Before arriving in Estonia
- check the website of the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board for information on the right of residence and residence permits;
- contact a EURES adviser to get information on living and working conditions in Estonia;
- arrange your accommodation;
- find out about your rights with regard to the Estonian social protection system by visiting the Social Insurance Board’s website;
- take out comprehensive insurance coverage, including accident and health insurance;
- if you have health insurance in your home country, apply for a European Health Insurance Card or its replacement certificate from the relevant institution in your country. This will give you the right to receive medical care while temporarily staying in Estonia.
After arriving in Estonia
- register your place of residence with the local government of your place of residence within three months and apply for an ID card at the Estonian Police and Border Guard;
- when you start work, conclude an employment contract that is as detailed as possible. Check all the details.
Police and Border Guard Board, residence permit related topics
Estonian Health Insurance Fund, healthcare when residing temporarily in another European country
Social Insurance Board
Comparative tables of social security benefits in European countries
Quality of work and employment - a vital issue, with a strong economic and humanitarian impact
Good working conditions are important for the well-being of European workers. They
- contribute to the physical and psychological welfare of Europeans, and
- contribute to the economic performance of the EU.
From a humanitarian point of view, the quality of working environment has a strong influence on the overall work and life satisfaction of European workers.
From an economic point of view, high-quality job conditions are a driving force of economic growth and a foundation for the competitive position of the European Union. A high level of work satisfaction is an important factor for achieving high productivity of the EU economy.
It is therefore a core issue for the European Union to promote the creation and maintenance of a sustainable and pleasant working environment – one that promotes health and well-being of European employees and creates a good balance between work and non-work time.
Improving working conditions in Europe: an important objective for the European Union.
Ensuring favourable working conditions for European citizens is a priority for the EU. The European Union is therefore working together with national governments to ensure a pleasant and secure workplace environment. Support to Member States is provided through:
- the exchange of experience between different countries and common actions
- the establishment of the minimum requirements on working conditions and health and safety at work, to be applied all over the European Union
Criteria for quality of work and employment
In order to achieve sustainable working conditions, it is important to determine the main characteristics of a favourable working environment and thus the criteria for the quality of working conditions.
The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) in Dublin, is an EU agency that provides information, advice and expertise on, as the name implies, living and working conditions. This agency has established several criteria for job and employment quality, which include:
- health and well-being at the workplace – this is a vital criteria, since good working conditions suppose the prevention of health problems at the work place, decreasing the exposure to risk and improving work organisation
- reconciliation of working and non-working life – citizens should be given the chance to find a balance between the time spent at work and at leisure
- skills development – a quality job is one that gives possibilities for training, improvement and career opportunities
The work of Eurofound contributes to the planning and design of better living and working conditions in Europe.
Health and safety at work
The European Commission has undertaken a wide scope of activities to promote a healthy working environment in the EU Member States. Amongst others, it developed a Community Strategy for Health and Safety at Work for the period 2021-2027. This strategy was set up with the help of national authorities, social partners and NGOs. It addresses the changing needs in worker’s protection brought by the digital and green transitions, new forms of work and the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, the framework will continue to address traditional occupational safety and health risks, such as risks of accidents at work or exposure to hazardous chemicals.
The Community policy on health and safety at work aims at a long-lasting improvement of well-being of EU workers. It takes into account the physical, moral and social dimensions of working conditions, as well as the new challenges brought up by the enlargement of the European Union towards countries from Central and Eastern Europe. The introduction of EU standards for health and safety at the workplace, has contributed a lot to the improvement of the situation of workers in these countries.
Improving working conditions by setting minimum requirements common to all EU countries
Improving living and working conditions in the EU Member States depends largely on the establishment of common labour standards. EU labour laws and regulations have set the minimum requirements for a sustainable working environment and are now applied in all Member States. The improvement of these standards has strengthened workers’ rights and is one of the main achievements of the EU’s social policy.
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 not 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.
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.
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.
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.
Europass is an instrument for ensuring the transparency of professional skills. It is composed of five standardised documents
- a CV (Curriculum Vitae),
- a cover letter editor,
- 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.
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. 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 register their short-time employment as seasonal work for up to 270 days during a year. 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 Police and Border Guard Board website.
A foreign national staying legally in Estonia on a temporary basis (e.g. with a visa or entering with a visa-free regime) and whose employment was registered with the Police and Border Guard Board before commencement of employment may work in Estonia for a short period of time.
Short-term employment can be registered for up to 365 days during a 455-day period. It is possible to register short-term employment for a longer period in the case of employment as a teacher in school or university, research work, employment as a top specialist or in a start-up company. Short-term employment can be registered as seasonal work for up to 270 days during a year.
More information on working and on working conditions can be found via the Labour Inspectorate and the Working Life portal.
Employment Contracts Act
Civil Service Act
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 the 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.
Employment Contracts Act
Law of Obligations Act
Legislation confers certain advantages and exceptions on employees in special categories. Special category employees include minors, women, and disabled persons. Certain rules also apply to foreign citizens working in Estonia.
Special rules applicable to the employment of women. Women enjoy certain benefits while pregnant or when raising a child under 3 years of age or when raising a disabled child. Women who meet these criteria may be sent on business trips only with their prior consent. A pregnant woman, or a woman who is raising a child under 16 years of age or a woman who is raising a disabled child may not be transferred to another locality. An employer may not cancel an employment contract with a pregnant woman, or with a woman who has the right to pregnancy and maternity leave, or with a person who is on parental leave or adoptive parent leave, due to a laying-off in terms of the work that is available, except upon the cessation of the activities of the employer or a declaration of the employer’s bankruptcy if the activities of the employer are terminated. Women may not be employed in heavy manual labour, work that is damaging to their health, or underground work. Employers must provide suitable working conditions and facilities for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Pregnant women may, on the basis of a certificate for sick leave issued by a doctor, temporarily request work appropriate to their medical status if the employee’s medical status does not allow her to perform the duties specified in the employment contract under the conditions agreed upon. Employers must allow pregnant women time off for ante-natal examinations at times prescribed by a doctor; the time required for such appointments is considered to be part of the employee’s normal working hours. Overtime cannot be required of pregnant women or employees who are entitled to pregnancy or maternity leave.
Special rules applicable to the employment of minors. An employer must not enter into an employment contract with a minor or allow a minor to work if the work is beyond the minor’s physical or psychological capacity; is likely to harm the moral development of the minor; involves risks which the minor likely cannot recognise or avoid owing to lack of experience or training; or is likely to harm the minor’s health or nature of work. It is illegal to enter into an employment contract with a minor without the consent or approval of the minor’s legal representative. In order to enter into an employment contract with a minor of between 7 and 14 years of age, the employer must apply for written consent from the labour inspector of the place of business (and also from the childcare worker). Minors enjoy equal rights with adults in employment relationships and disputes, and they have benefits prescribed by law, administrative legislation and collective agreements. Minors who are subject to the obligation to attend school can be required to work only during the school holidays, or as a creative person in the area of cultural, art, sports, or commercial activities, and on condition that the work does not damage their health, safety, development, or morals or prevent them from attending school.
As a part of the ‘My First Job’ service, the Unemployment Insurance Fund pays salary aid to an employer of a young person aged 16‒29 and reimburses training expenses. The Unemployment Insurance Fund pays employers of young people aged 13‒16 a special minors’ employment subsidy.
Minors have shorter working hours.
Employers must create suitable working conditions and facilities for employees who are minors.
Persons with a reduced capacity for work. Employers must create suitable working and living conditions for a reduced capacity for work. Persons with a reduced capacity for work are entitled to social benefits and state aid. The Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund also offers various services which serve to simplify the process of employing persons with a reduced work capacity as well as the work that they do. An overview of these services can be found on their website: Reduced capacity for work.
Working foreign nationals and citizens of third countries.
A foreign national who has no legal basis to remain in Estonia is prohibited from taking up employment in Estonia. In general, foreign nationals residing in Estonia on the basis of a residence permit are entitled to work in Estonia. Separate work permits are not issued in Estonia since 1 September 2013.
Foreign citizens residing in Estonia temporarily (for example, on the basis of a visa or visa waiver) can work in Estonia if:
the right to work is based directly on the law or an international agreement,
short-term employment is pre-registered by the employer with the Police and Border Guard Board.
Short-term employment can be registered for up to 365 days in a 455-day period. Registration of short-term employment is possible for a longer period if the employment is as a teacher or member of teaching staff, employment in research, or employment as a top-level specialist or in a start-up. Short-time employment for seasonal work can be registered for up to 270 days a year.
Further information about the working rights of foreign nationals can be obtained from the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board.
To support the onboarding and retention of a beneficiary of international protection, the employer is paid a work mentoring fee and is reimbursed for the expenses sustained in obtaining the employee’s qualification, job-related translation services and job-related training (training period until 30.11.2023). More information is available from the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund.
Police and Border Guard Board
Social Insurance Board
Employment Contracts Act
Unemployment Insurance Fund – granting permission to an employer to fill a position with a foreign worker
Unemployment Insurance Fund – aid for employing a person who has special needs
Unemployment Insurance Fund – services for people who have special needs
Supporting the employment of a beneficiary of international protection
Unemployment Insurance Fund ‒ minors’ employment subsidy
Any person who offers goods or services against payment in their own name and to whom the sale of goods or the provision of services is the permanent activity may be self-employed in Estonia. A minor who is at least 15 years of age may also be self-employed, provided they have parental consent to engage in economic activities.
Self-employed persons must apply to be entered into the Commercial Register before they may commence their activities. Self-employed persons are no longer registered in the register of taxable persons maintained by the Tax and Customs Board. There are two ways of registering as self-employed in the Commercial Register: submitting a digitally signed application to the court’s registry department via the Company Registration Portal or submitting a notarised application. The following regulations apply to working as a self-employed person: the Commercial Code, the Employment Contracts Act, and the Taxation Act.
Further information about self-employment is available from Enterprise Estonia, the Ministry of Justice, and the Tax and Customs Board. The relevant legislation can be found in the electronic Riigi Teataja (State Gazette). Useful information can also be obtained from the Entrepreneurs’ Information Gateway and the Company Registration Portal.
Company Registration Portal
The minimum wage in Estonia has been established with the regulation of the Government of the Republic and, since 1 January 2023, the minimum hourly salary has been set at EUR 4.30 while the minimum monthly salary has been set at EUR 725. 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.
Tax and Customs Board
Salary and Tax Calculator
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 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.
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.
Ministry of Social Affairs
Employment Contracts Act
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.
On the basis of a certificate for maternity leave, a woman has the right to maternity leave of 100 calendar days. A father has the right to paternity leave to the extent of 30 calendar days in one part or in several parts in the period from 30 days before the estimated date of birth of the child, as determined by a doctor or a midwife, to the date when the child reaches three years of age.
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.
After the end of the maternity benefit period, it is up to the mother and father to decide who of them will continue to receive parental benefit. This benefit is called shared parental benefit. Shared parental benefit can be withdrawn within 475 days. This benefit may be interrupted and continued by calendar days. If the mother did not have an employment of service relationship subject to the payment of social tax prior to the birth of the child and was therefore entitled to only 30 days of maternity leave, the duration of shared parental benefit is 515 days.
NB! If one of the parents is on parental leave after the child reaches 30 days of age, that parent is entitled to shared parental benefit.
In addition, parents can take shared parental benefit to the extent of up to 60 days at the same time. The number of days taken at the same time is deducted from the total duration of the payment of parental benefit.
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.
A parent who is in an employment relationship receives child leave of 10 working days for each child under 14 years of age. Each parent is entitled to child leave separately and on a per-child basis – each parent has 10 days of child leave per child (i.e. the parents have in total 20 days) until the child reaches 14 years of age. All the child leave days are spread over the period until the child reaches 14 years of age. The use of child leave does not shorten the annual holiday period. The child leave benefit is paid under similar principles to that of the parental benefit, depending on the previous income, but the replacement rate thereof is not 100% but 50%.
In the year in which the child turns 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.
Ministry of Social Affairs
Employment Contracts Act
Social Insurance Board
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 336.39 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.
Social Insurance Board
Ministry of Social Affairs
Trade unions or workers’ representations in Estonia are independent and voluntary associations founded to represent and defend the employment, service-related, professional, economic, social rights and interests of employees.
Anyone has the right to establish a trade union freely and without prior permission, and to join or not to join trade unions. Members of the armed forces who are in active service in the Defence Forces are not permitted to establish or join trade unions.
An employee has the right to join the union of his or her workplace or any other union. An employee has the right to act as the elected representative of a trade union. Only about 10–15% of workers in Estonia belong to trade unions. Please refer to the Estonian Trade Union Confederation for further information.
Estonian Trade Union Confederation
Strikes are generally the exception in Estonia and receive little support. Strikes are usually organised by the major trade union organisations and the main reason for striking is to demand increased pay. Legislation treats strikes as public assemblies. The organiser of a strike or lock-out must inform the other party, the public or the local conciliator and the local authorities of any planned strike or lock-out by notifying them in writing at least 2 weeks in advance.
It is illegal to organise a public assembly directed against the independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Estonia or aims to forcibly change the existing public order; that advocates violation of the territorial integrity of the Republic of Estonia; that incites national, racial, religious or political hatred, violence or discrimination between social groups; that incites a breach of public order or is detrimental to public morals.
A strike organiser must provide notification of a public assembly at least 7 days in advance to the city or rural municipality authorities in whose administrative territory the assembly is to take place, to the county authority if the assembly is to take place in the administrative territory of several rural municipalities or cities within that county, or to the government of the Republic if the assembly is to take place in the administrative territory of several counties. Participants in a public assembly are obliged to behave peacefully and to follow the orders of the assembly organiser, steward, the police and the staff of medical and rescue services.
The new Labour Dispute Resolution Act has been in force since 1 January 2018. It provides for the settlement of labour disputes at the Labour Dispute Committee. The Individual Labour Dispute Resolution Act that was in force previously should be applied first when resolving any labour disputes initiated before the above Act entered into force.
Labour Dispute Resolution Act
The term Vocational Education and Training refers to practical activities and courses related to a specific occupation or vocation, aimed at preparing participants for their future careers. Vocational training is an essential means to achieve professional recognition and improve chances to get a job. It is therefore vital that vocational training systems in Europe respond to the needs of citizens and the labour market in order to facilitate access to employment.
Vocational education and training has been an essential part of EU policy since the very establishment of the European Community. It is also a crucial element of the so-called EU Lisbon Strategy, which aims at transforming Europe into the world’s most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based society. In 2002 the European Council reaffirmed this vital role, and established yet another ambitious goal – to make European education and training renowned globally by the year 2010 – by championing a number of world-class initiatives, and in particular by strengthening cooperation in the area of vocational training.
On 24 November 2020, the Council of the European Union adopted a Recommendation on vocational education and training for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience.
The Recommendation defines key principles for ensuring that vocational education and training is agile in that it adapts swiftly to labour market needs and provides quality learning opportunities for young people and adults alike.
It places a strong focus on the increased flexibility of vocational education and training, reinforced opportunities for work-based learning, apprenticeships and improved quality assurance.
The Recommendation also replaces the EQAVET – European Quality Assurance in Vocational Education and Training – Recommendation and includes an updated EQAVET Framework with quality indicators and descriptors. It repeals the former ECVET Recommendation.
To promote these reforms, the Commission supports Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs) which bring together local partners to develop ‘skills ecosystems'. Skills ecosystems will contribute to regional, economic and social development, innovation and smart specialisation strategies.
Erasmus+ is the EU's programme to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe.
It has an estimated budget of €26.2 billion. This is nearly double the funding compared to its predecessor programme (2014-2020).
The 2021-2027 programme places a strong focus on social inclusion, the green and digital transitions, and promoting young people’s participation in democratic life.
It supports priorities and activities set out in the European Education Area, Digital Education Action Plan and the European Skills Agenda. The programme also
- supports the European Pillar of Social Rights
- implements the EU Youth Strategy 2019-2027
- develops the European dimension in sport
Who can take part? Find out here.
Adult Education and Lifelong Learning in Europe
Lifelong learning is a process that involves all forms of education – formal, informal and non-formal – and lasts from the pre-school period until after retirement. It is meant to enable people to develop and maintain key competencies throughout their life as well as to empower citizens to move freely between jobs, regions and countries. Lifelong learning is also a core element of the previously mentioned Lisbon Strategy, as it is crucial for self-development and the raising of competitiveness and employability. The EU has adopted several instruments for the promotion of adult education in Europe.
In order to make lifelong learning a reality in Europe, the European Commission has set itself the objective of creating a European Area of Lifelong Learning. In this context, the Commission focuses on identifying the needs of both learners and the labour market in order to make education more accessible and subsequently create partnerships between public administrations, suppliers of educational services and civil society.
This EU initiative is based on the objective of providing basic skills – by strengthening counselling and information services at a European level, and by recognising all forms of learning, including formal education and informal and non-formal training.
EU organisations promoting vocational education in Europe
With the objective of facilitating cooperation and exchange in the field of vocational training, the EU has set up specialised bodies working in the field of VOCATIONAL TRAINING.
The European Centre for Vocational Training (CEDEFOP / Centre Européen pour le Développement de la Formation Professionnelle) was created in 1975 as a specialised EU agency for the promotion and development of vocational education and training in Europe. Based in Thessaloniki, Greece, it carries out research and analysis on vocational training and disseminates its expertise to various European partners, such as related research institutions, universities or training facilities.
The European Training Foundation was established in 1995 and works in close collaboration with CEDEFOP. Its mission is to support partner countries (from outside the EU) to modernise and develop their systems for vocational training.
Quality of life – on top of the EU social policy agenda
Favourable living conditions depend on a wide range of factors, such as quality healthcare services, education and training opportunities or good transport facilities, just to name a few aspects affecting citizens’ everyday life and work. The European Union has set for itself the aim to constantly improve the quality of life in all its Member States, and to take into account the new challenges of contemporary Europe, such as socially exclude people or an aging population.
Employment in Europe
Improving employment opportunities in Europe is a key priority for the European Commission. With the prospect of tackling the problem of unemployment and increasing the mobility between jobs and regions, a wide variety of initiatives at EU level are being developed and implemented to support the European Employment strategy. These include the European Employment Services network (EURES) and the EU Skills Panorama.
Health and healthcare in the European Union
Health is a cherished value, influencing people’s daily lives and therefore an important priority for all Europeans. A healthy environment is crucial for our individual and professional development, and EU citizens are ever more demanding about health and safety at work and the provision of high quality healthcare services. They require quick and easy access to medical treatment when travelling across the European Union. EU health policies are aimed at responding to these needs.
The European Commission has developed a coordinated approach to health policy, putting into practice a series of initiatives that complement the actions of national public authorities. The Union’s common actions and objectives are included in EU health programmes and strategies.
The current EU4Health Programme (2021-2027) is the EU’s ambitious response to COVID-19. The pandemic has a major impact on patients, medical and healthcare staff, and health systems in Europe. The new EU4Health programme will go beyond crisis response to address healthcare systems’ resilience.
EU4Health, established by Regulation (EU) 2021/522, will provide funding to eligible entities, health organisations and NGOs from EU countries, or non-EU countries associated to the programme.
With EU4Health, the EU will invest €5.3 billion in current prices in actions with an EU added value, complementing EU countries’ policies and pursuing one or several of EU4Health´s objectives:
- To improve and foster health in the Union
- disease prevention & health promotion
- international health initiatives & cooperation
- To tackle cross-border health threats
- prevention, preparedness & response to cross-border health threats
- complementing national stockpiling of essential crisis-relevant products
- establishing a reserve of medical, healthcare & support staff
- To improve medicinal products, medical devices and crisis-relevant products
- making medicinal products, medical devices and crisis-relevant products available and affordable
- To strengthen health systems, their resilience and resource efficiency
- strengthening health data, digital tools & services, digital transformation of healthcare
- improving access to healthcare
- developing and implementing EU health legislation and evidence-based decision making
- integrated work among national health systems
Education in the EU
Education in Europe has both deep roots and great diversity. Already in 1976, education ministers decided to set up an information network to better understand educational policies and systems in the then nine-nation European Community. This reflected the principle that the particular character of an educational system in any one Member State ought to be fully respected, while coordinated interaction between education, training and employment systems should be improved. Eurydice, the information network on education in Europe, was formally launched in 1980.
In 1986, attention turned from information exchanges to student exchanges with the launch of the Erasmus programme, now grown into the Erasmus+programme, often cited as one of the most successful initiatives of the EU.
Transport in the EU
Transport was one of the first common policies of the then European Community. Since 1958, when the Treaty of Rome entered into force, the EU’s transport policy has focused on removing border obstacles between Member States, thereby enabling people and goods to move quickly, efficiently and cheaply.
This principle is closely connected to the EU’s central goal of a dynamic economy and cohesive society. The transport sector generates 10% of EU wealth measured by gross domestic product (GDP), equivalent to about one trillion Euros a year. It also provides more than ten million jobs.
The Schengen area
The Schengen Convention, in effect since March 1995, abolished border controls within the area of the signatory States and created a single external frontier, where checks have to be carried out in accordance with a common set of rules.
Today, the Schengen Area encompasses most EU countries, except for Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland and Romania. However, Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania are currently in the process of joining the Schengen Area and already applying the Schengen acquis to a large extent. Additionally, also the non-EU States Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein have joined the Schengen Area.
The creation of a single European market in air transport has meant lower fares and a wider choice of carriers and services for passengers. The EU has also created a set of rights to ensure air passengers are treated fairly.
As an air passenger, you have certain rights when it comes to information about flights and reservations, damage to baggage, delays and cancellations, denied boarding, compensation in the case of accident or difficulties with package holidays. These rights apply to scheduled and chartered flights, both domestic and international, from an EU airport or to an EU airport from one outside the EU, when operated by an EU airline.
Over the last 25 years the Commission has been very active in proposing restructuring the European rail transport market and in order to strengthen the position of railways vis-à-vis other transport modes. The Commission's efforts have concentrated on three major areas which are all crucial for developing a strong and competitive rail transport industry:
- opening the rail transport market to competition,
- improving the interoperability and safety of national networks and
- developing rail transport infrastructure.
Estonia is an independent and sovereign democratic republic wherein the supreme power of the state is vested in the people. All legislation is passed pursuant to the constitution and laws which are in conformity with that constitution. The generally recognised principles and rules of international law form an inseparable part of the Estonian legal system. Legislation is passed by the Estonian parliament – the Riigikogu – by a majority of votes in favour of a motion. The Estonian head of State is the President of the Republic, who is elected for a term of office lasting 5 years. Executive power is vested in the government of the republic, which consists of the prime minister and ministers. The republic’s president promulgates laws.
All local issues are resolved and managed by local government authorities, rural municipalities, and city authorities, which act independently pursuant to law.
In Estonia, justice is administered by the courts. The Estonian judicial system consists of three tiers. County courts and administrative courts are courts of the first instance, and circuit courts serve as the second instance. Circuit courts review judgments which are made by courts of the first instance by way of appeals proceedings. The third instance is the supreme court, which is the highest court in the country. The supreme court reviews court judgments by way of cassation proceedings. The supreme court is also the court of constitutional review. Every person whose constitutional rights or freedoms have been breached has the right to refer their case to the Chancellor of Justice.
The role of the police is to ensure safety and public order in Estonia. The activities of the police are coordinated by the Police and Border Guard Board. The emergency contact number for the police is 112.
Basic legal aid is provided by a number of NGOs. The operation of such organisations is often supported by the local authorities, universities, and public authorities. In cases in which more complicated legal issues arise, one should contact a legal aid office or solicitor’s office, and in certain cases a notary or bailiff.
The Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund is a legal entity under public law, acting in accordance with the statutes of the unemployment fund which was established by a regulation issued by the government of the republic. The fund provides employment services and disburses unemployment insurance benefits.
The Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund has departments in the principal town of every county and, where necessary, also in smaller towns.
Police and Border Guard Board
Estonian Bar Association
Chamber of Notaries
Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund
In the fourth quarter of 2022, the average gross monthly salary in Estonia was EUR 1 775. 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 3 169.00
- in the financial and insurance activities sector: EUR 2 717.00
- in the electricity and gas supply sector: EUR 2 352.00
- in the mining sector: EUR 2 092.00
- in the public administration and national defence sector: EUR 2 334.00
- in professional, scientific, and technical activities: EUR 2 121.00
- in the healthcare and social welfare sector: EUR 1 910.00
- in the construction sector: EUR 1 583.00
- in the water supply, sewerage, waste and pollution management sector: EUR 1 777.00
- in the transportation and storage sector: EUR 1 723.00
- in the manufacturing sector: EUR 1 692.00
- in the wholesale and retail trade sector: EUR 1 478.00
- in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector: EUR 1 455.00
- in the real estate sector: EUR 1 361.00
- in the education sector: EUR 1 682.00
- in the arts, entertainment, and leisure sector: EUR 1 383.00
- in the hotels and catering sector: EUR 1 116.00
- in other service sectors: EUR 1 395.00
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.
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 7 848 per year, or up to EUR 654 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 654 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 654 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 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.
Tax and Customs Board
Income tax calculation from 2018
Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund
Social Insurance Board
Prices vary according to region, with the most expensive city in Estonia being Tallinn, the country’s capital. According to a survey by Statistics Estonia, in 2022 the cost of the minimum monthly food basket was EUR 84.59 per person.
Monthly utilities (gas, electricity, water) for a two-room flat are on average EUR 120, although the figure is higher in Tallinn.
Average retail prices of dairy products in ordinary shops in Estonia, March 2023:
milk 1 l EUR 1.07
kefir 1 l EUR 1.17
sour cream 20% milk fat 1 kg EUR 3.67
butter 1 kg EUR 13.63
cheese 1 kg EUR 12
Average retail price of vegetables in ordinary shops in Estonia, March 2023:
potatoes 1 kg EUR 0.92
carrots 1 kg EUR 1.23
cucumbers (local) 1 kg EUR 6.36
tomatoes 1 kg EUR 3.86
Average retail price of fruit in ordinary shops in Estonia, March 2023:
apples (local) 1 kg EUR 4.36
Average retail price of meat products in ordinary shops in Estonia, March 2023:
pork (boneless) 1 kg EUR 7.81
beef (boneless) 1 kg EUR 16.87
minced meat (beef-pork mixture) 1 kg EUR 7.54
chicken (local) 1 kg EUR 4.05
eggs 10 pcs EUR 2.57
Average retail price of fresh fish in ordinary shops in Estonia, March 2023:
trout fillet 1 kg EUR 20.15
salmon fillet 1 kg EUR 25.72
Average retail price of cereal products in ordinary shops in Estonia, March 2023:
bread EUR 2.85
white bread EUR 3.05
A standard cinema ticket costs between EUR 3.00 and EUR 9.00.
A three course lunch in an ordinary restaurant costs about EUR 25–30 per person.
Prices for fuel fluctuate, and also differ between petrol stations. The average price for one litre of 95 petrol was around EUR 1.68 in April 2023.
More information on incomes and price levels in Estonia can be found via the websites of Statistics Estonia, the Estonian Institute of Economic Research, and the market research company TNS Emor.
Estonian Institute of Economic Research
T Teleport – software for comparing the cost of living in large cities
Accommodation can either be rented or purchased. In each case there are expenses that fall into four main categories:
- homeowners’ costs, including property management
- maintenance costs
- construction and repair costs
If accommodation is rented, the lessee generally pays the rent, as well as metered utilities such as heating, water, sewerage, electricity, gas, and waste disposal. Metered costs are tracked using meters. If the accommodation comes with wood-burning stove heating, the cost of wood fuel must also be added. If the leased dwelling is in an apartment building which is managed by a property management company or has a concierge or superintendent, then property management costs are added to the utility bill. In winter, utility bills are higher throughout the country than they are in summer. Internet, TV, and telephone expenses are additional utility costs. These are up to each lessee to decide.
Rent levels vary from one city to the next, depending on the size of the rental unit, the level of furnishing, the location, and the general condition of the premises. When renting a dwelling, you should consider the point that a deposit is generally required (usually amounting to one or two months of rent in advance), and often a one-month prepayment of rent is combined with this. If you rent through a property agency, expect to pay a broker’s fee of one month’s rent.
When you rent accommodation, be sure to sign a written lease that describes in detail the condition of the premises (covering the amount of furnishing being supplied, a list of the equipment, and other significant aspects), as well as laying out the procedures for paying the rent, the term of the lease and the procedure for extending it, the terms and conditions for amending the lease, the notice period required for the termination of the lease (generally one month), and other relevant aspects. In general, the lease is signed for at least one year.
The lessor usually presumes that the lessee will not have pets in the unit (such as dogs and cats) and will not carry out extensive alterations (such as, for instance, major repairs). If you wish to keep pets on the premises or carry out major alterations, be sure to discuss this with the landlord before signing the lease and add the respective clauses to the lease. Any refurbishment work is usually agreed by deducting any expenses incurred from the amount of rent to be paid.
Registry of real estate agents in Estonia
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 the family doctor is the first point of contact in the case of falling 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 a person to a specialist doctor for consultation, or to a hospital. It is advisable that a family doctor be selected close to home. Family doctors have no fixed catchment area. A written application must be submitted 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 the intention to do so, as the doctor has the right to refuse the application (such as, for instance, if the doctor’s list is regarded as being full). If a family doctor has not communicated any refusal to admit a person to their practice list within seven days of submitting the application, the person 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.
Estonian Health Insurance Fund
Family doctors in Estonia
International House of Estonia
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.
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.
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.
Estonian Ministry of Education and Research
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, 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.
In order to marry in Estonia you have to be 18 years of age. A marriage can be entered into between a man and a woman. A minor aged between 15 and 18 years old may marry with the written consent of their parents or guardian. It is important that both of the minor’s parents consent to the marriage, even if they are divorced or separated. The requirement for marriage is the joint intention of the prospective spouses. Notaries public also have the authority to marry couples, in addition to local government authorities and priests. An electronic marriage application can be submitted in the e-population register only to the local government authority. In order to marry, a couple must present a joint marriage application, identity documents and, in the case of individuals who have previously been married, a divorce certificate, a death certificate of the spouse, or the judgment regarding annulment of marriage, while residents of other countries must submit a certificate declaring the absence of circumstances which may be hindering a marriage. The state fee must be paid. A marriage is entered into no earlier than 1 month and no later than 3 months after the submission of an application by the prospective spouses. The couple is issued with a digital marriage licence and, if they so wish, a paper document as well.
If you are a citizen of a foreign state and you have no residence permit in Estonia, you will have to submit a ‘Certificate of no impediment’ which has been issued in your country of residence. This certificate has either to be legalised or certified by an apostille. If you are a foreign citizen but have an Estonian residence permit, you do not need to present any other supporting documents. If the country that issued the above certificate is party to the Hague Convention for Abolishing the Requirement for Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents, the certificate must be certified by an apostille. If an agreement on mutual legal assistance has been concluded between Estonia and the relevant country, no additional validation of the certificate is required. All foreign language certificates need to be translated into Estonian and the translations have to be notarised. For more detailed information on legalisation and certification by an apostille, please contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
If your marriage has been contracted abroad, it has to be legalised in Estonia. In order to do this, a marriage certificate issued by a foreign state has to be either legalised or certified by an apostille by a relevant authority of that state and thereafter registered with the Estonian population register. Further information on marriage procedures is available from your local registry office.
A married couple can divorce at a vital statistics office, at a notary public or in court. A marriage is dissolved by a court if the spouses disagree about the divorce, a dispute concerning a child has to be settled, joint property has to be divided, or maintenance support has to be ordered. In such cases, an action needs to be filed through the courts.
The birth of a child is registered, upon receipt of an application from a parent during the first month of the child’s life, in the e-population register or in the local rural municipality or city government register. The local government authority is responsible for issuing a birth certificate. Once a birth is registered, the child’s place of residence is considered to be the address of the mother as entered into the Population Register. To enter a birth which was registered abroad into the Population Register, the appropriate documents are submitted to the local government authority after they have been translated and legalised or certified (by an apostille). Children are not registered a second time in Estonia.
The death of a person is registered in the local government authority of the last place of residence of the deceased person or their place of death. The local government authority in the place where the court is located registers the death on the basis of a court order establishing the fact of the death and declaring the person to be dead. An application for death registration must be submitted within three days after the person’s day of death or after finding the deceased. The application for death registration can be submitted by the spouse or a relative of the deceased, or a person who lived with the deceased, or by a police officer or another official.
For more information on registering a marriage, birth, divorce or death, please refer to local government authorities.
Ministry of the Interior
Document certified by an apostille
City and rural municipality governments
One can travel by bus, train, ship, plane, taxi or car in Estonia. Every major city has a public bus system for travel within the city, and there are also buses and trains for travel between the city and nearby rural areas. Inter-city bus and train schedules are displayed online and in bus and railway stations. In Tallinn, the public transport system also includes trolley buses and trams. Timetables for buses, trams, and trolley buses are displayed at the majority of stops, as well as on local government authority websites. The prices for bus and rail tickets differ from one city to another. Public transport tickets are electronic.
In September 2012 a new e-ticket system was implemented for the Tallinn public transport system, and an electronic Public Transport Card was introduced. This card replaced the previous system which used paper tickets and now enables users of public transport to buy all existing types of ticket electronically. Users can upload money and ticket products to the Public Transport Card. Public Transport Cards are interchangeable in Tallinn, Harju County, Tartu, Tartu County, Saare County, Hiiu County, Jõgeva County, Kohtla-Järve, Lääne-Viru County, Põlva County, Pärnu County, Valga County, and on GoBus long-distance lines, regardless of the place of purchase (except for the cards with Tartu design, which cannot be used in Kohtla-Järve).
There is an interactive website (pilet.ee) on which you can check ticket prices and buy tickets, as well as keep an eye on the current status of your ticket and carry out any other necessary operations. You can buy tickets over the internet through internet banking, by mobile phone; in the case of intercity transport, tickets can be purchased at bus and railway stations, from the driver and in some cases via the internet. Taxi companies operate in larger cities. The provision of Bolt taxi service, which operates through an app, is widespread. Car rentals are also available. There are regular ferry and ship connections to Estonia’s biggest islands and flights to Saaremaa and Hiiumaa as well as to Kihnu and Ruhnu. Flight schedules are displayed at airports, bus timetables in bus stations and on the internet. Schedules for ships and ferries are available in the ports from which they operate and also on the operators’ websites. Tallinn Airport provides information on international flights.
Electronic ticket system