TALLINN - With unemployment up 68.3 percent year-on-year, on Nov. 10 Estonia began experiencing one of the most dramatic shifts in workplace dynamics in history 's and according to analysts the trend is set to continue well into 2009.
According to third quarter data reported by Estonian Statistics the number of unemployed now sits at 44,000 's the highest recorded figure for several years. Given that the economic crisis has not fully manifested itself in Estonia due to the government's healthy capital reserves, the statistics forecast a gloomy outlook in the event of ongoing global economic decline.
With roughly 25,000 of Estonia's unemployed now registered with the Estonian Labor Market Board, the government's public employment service has found itself overburdened with individuals desperately seeking work.
Yet even with assistance from the Labor Board, workers are struggling to find new jobs, with only roughly one in 24 successful.
In discussing the challenges faced by the Estonian workforce in the coming year, Nele Labi, head of the Estonian Labor Market Board's services and benefits department, told The Baltic Times that rising unemployment is set to continue in the New Year.
"The Estonian Labor Market Board has not made a prognosis for 2009 yet 's as the situation is changing so rapidly, it is rather impossible to make any valid forecasts. But indeed we see that unemployment is rising and that will continue at least until late spring 2009," Labi said.
When asked about which sectors of the economy are most at risk, Labi quickly pointed to Estonia's large production industries.
"As for the layoffs, most of them will occur in the textile and wood industry and also in the building sector," she said.
However, the obstacles facing the Estonian workforce are far from limited to manual industries. Statistics show that of those 25,000 registered at the Labor Board, almost a fifth has a higher education background.
Analysts have suggested that an even greater percentage of those unemployed who are not registered with the Labor Board are from a white-collar background, as they are more likely to be capable of finding work without government assistance.
Nevertheless, according to Tiina Ormisson, head of the Estonian Labor Market Board, there is a distinct white-collar presence among those unemployed seeking assistance.
"It is notable more white-collars come every day," she said.
However, Ormisson said unemployed white-collar workers are not the state's responsibility, suggesting that they had gone out on a limb in making the decision to work in a specialized field.
"Life is tough and when a person has made a choice the Estonian labor market doesn't need, then it's most important to understand that it's not the state's fault a person has made the wrong choice," Ormisson said.
Yet given the Estonian government's pro-business ethos there are viable alternatives to the Labor Board, namely undergoing re-training and business guidance from Enterprise Estonia, the state's business support program.