TALLINN – While the inclusion of people with reduced work capacity in the labor market has grown in Estonia, employers' awareness of the support measures offered by the state could be bigger, it appears from a survey conducted by the Estonian Employers' Confederation and pollster Turu-uuringute AS.
According to the survey, 64 percent of employers rate reduced work capacity rather as being secondary, and, between 2015 and 2021, the proportion of employers who had hired people with reduced work capacity rose from 29 percent to 33 percent, spokespeople for the Ministry of Social Affairs said. Said indicator has increased particularly in the public sector.
"The increase in the number of people with reduced work capacity in employment and the rise in the proportion of employers who have taken them on shows that we are moving towards the targets set for the work capacity reform," said Brit Rammul, head of the Employment Department at the Ministry of Social Affairs.
She added that the change has also been supported by greater flexibility in employment relationships, as people want and employers are willing to offer more part-time work and remote work.
"Although the vast majority of employers consider the recruitment of people with reduced work capacity to be a socially responsible act, employers themselves do not follow such motives in the choice of employees -- the motivation, qualifications and skills of the employee are considered more important," said the manager of the Estonian Employers' Confederation, Arto Aas.
Therefore, according to Aas, it makes sense to invest first and foremost in services which support a person's competitiveness on the labor market -- career counseling, further training and retraining.
Similarly to previous surveys, it was revealed that the share of businesses and institutions employing people with reduced work capacity is higher than average in Northeast Estonia, a region where the share of people with reduced work capacity in the population is higher than elsewhere in Estonia.
The survey also revealed that employers consider the support and services made available by the state to be a fairly motivating factor in recruiting people with reduced work capacity. At the same time, employers' awareness of national measures has not increased over the past four years.
Most of those interviewed knew about the possibility of getting the social tax reimbursed for a worker with reduced work capacity, but almost half did not know about the possibility of reimbursing the costs of retraining or further training, reimbursement of the costs of adapting work premises and equipment, or the service of a worker support person. The results of the survey will serve as an input to the planning of the next steps of the work capacity reform and the design of support and information activities for employers.
Turu-uuringute AS interviewed 861 employers, including public, private and non-profit associations, for the study on employers' attitudes towards the recruitment of people with reduced work capacity in March and April 2021. The survey is funded by the European Social Fund (ESF).
As at the beginning of April 2021, there were about 102,000 people with reduced work capacity and disability pensioners in Estonia, who made up 12 percent of country's working age population.
According to national statistics, the number of employed people with reduced work capacity aged 16-64 increased by about 4,200 in the period from 2015-2019, and employment in that target group has increased from 48.7 percent to 52.1 percent.
Five years ago, a transition took place in Estonia to a new system of work capacity support, as the Unemployment Insurance Fund started to assess work capacity and provide new support services for people with reduced work capacity based on new principles.
The Unemployment Insurance Fund also offers various support measures and services to employers who have hired or are interested in hiring people with reduced work capacity.