TALLINN – The Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications believes that a free distribution of the annual immigration quota, without a breakdown of the allowed maximum number by sector, would be a better option for the Estonian economy.
The ministry considers that in a situation where the shortage of skilled labor is one of the main factors holding back the development of businesses in Estonia, it is not reasonable to interfere with the already limited distribution of residence permits.
"It is also clear from the statistics on the applications in previous years that the temporary residence permits within the immigration quota are distributed in the sectors that are affected by high labor shortages, such as manufacturing, construction, and transport and storage," Minister of Economic Affairs and Information Technology Tiit Riisalo said in a letter to Minister of the Interior Lauri Laanemets.
Riisalo expressed the hope that if the Ministry of the Interior nevertheless deems a breakdown by sector of activity to be necessary, the number of residence permits actually issued in the past years will be used as a basis for the allocation, so that part of the quota will not remain unused.
"We would like to remind you that recruiting foreign labor is a significantly more costly and complex process for companies than hiring local labor. In addition, when hiring a foreign employee, the salary criterion must be observed, which in most cases is at least the average gross monthly salary in Estonia. However, the labor problem is so acute that often hiring foreign workers turns out to be the only way to maintain the competitiveness of the company and the existing jobs that ensure work for residents of Estonia," the minister of economic affairs and IT said.
Riisalo added that according to an Eurostat baseline estimate published in the summer, the number of 20 to 64-year-olds in Estonia will decrease by 13,000 in the period from 2023 to 2028, by 3,500 in the case of high migration and by 28,000 without migration.
The Ministry of the Interior has proposed an immigration quota of 1,303 for Estonia for 2024. This is the maximum number, equaling 0.1 percent of the country's permanent population, as per the Aliens Act. The quota is smaller by four than the quota for this year.
In addition, the Ministry of the Interior has proposed that, under next year's quota, a certain proportion of residence permits would be earmarked for employment in manufacturing, construction, transport and storage, sports, entrepreneurship, journalism, creative work and under an international agreement. A certain part of the quota is subject to free allocation. It is not known at this point how the quota will be divided between said sectors.