TALLINN - A massive inflow of foreign labor to Estonia cannot be avoided and might start as soon as the next decade, Madis Habakuk, rector of the Estonian Business School, said last week.
Speaking at a seminar on demographics and economic development on Nov. 24, Habakuk pointed out that in 1990-1995 the annual number of births in Estonia dropped from 25,000 to 12,000 - 13,000 and that starting from 2010 - 2015 there will be 11,000 fewer people entering the job market every year than in the preceding period.
But the labor market expects 21,000 - 22,000 new entrants annually, and the shortfall will result in some 110,000 foreign laborers immigrating into Estonia, together with their families, over 10 years, Habakuk said at the Estonia 2050 seminar.
Habakuk said that managed immigration, which would take place via universities and employers and would be based on quotas and quality standards, could serve as a big opportunity for Estonia. Habakuk named the area of the former planned economies and Southeast Asia as the possible regions where immigrants to Estonia could come from.
As risks involved in immigration and political considerations to be weighed, he mentioned a lack of understanding between cultures, a weakening of the position of the Estonian language and culture and the potential threat of terrorism.Habakuk also pointed out Estonian society's low tolerance to immigration. "The media's positive or negative attitude may prove crucial," he said.