TALLINN - The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced plans to introduce a special card for the unemployed that will help improve the efficiency of conversion training.
The plans, which will come into effect in autumn, would allow unemployed people to choose from the list of courses themselves instead of waiting for placement from the Department of Labor.
According to Helmi Tampere, a leading expert on the labor market, unemployed persons would be able to receive a list from the Labor Department that has information about the time and place of the courses.
These cards will not be available to all unemployed people, she said. The card will only be provided to people who are in the most need of finding a job.
The cards would be provided free of charge, and will automatically cover some cost of the courses. If costs exceed the sum which is covered by the card, people will be required to pay the difference.
MASS JOB LOSS
The news of the improved system comes as experts predict a sharp spike in unemployment figures.
"Employment is still increasing and it is quite difficult to say when it will get to its end" Siim Krusell, an analyst with the Population and Social Statistics Department, told The Baltic Times.
Krusell said the problem of unemployment is related to the financial and political system in the country.
The total number of officially registered unemployed people in Estonia on March 13
was 50,527. According to the Minister of Social Affairs Hanno Pevkura, the number could reach 100,000 by the end of the year.
Experts warn, however, that these numbers might not reflect the true number of unemployed in the country 's which is in fact much higher.
According to Raul Eametsa, a professor of macroeconomics at Tartu University, the number of unemployed at present could be as much as 1.5 times higher 's reaching as much as 70,000 people.
It is important to mention that according to statistics available on March 11, 2,530 people passed courses on conversion training.
Courses for future businessmen, welders, beauty salon workers, bookkeeper's assistants and service industry workers are currently being run in addition to courses for various categories of driving licenses.
Thor-Sten Vertmann, the head of the Department of Labor, a subsidiary of the Ministry of Social Affairs, has said that the rate of unemployment grows with each week while the number of free positions available through the Department of Labor did not change from the beginning of the year.
The department currently has about 2,000 vacancies.
THE GOOD YEARS END
The expected increase in unemployment comes on the heels of years of improvement in the area. According to Statistics Estonia, at the end of 2007 the decline in unemployment continued 's in the 4th quarter the unemployment rate decreased to 4.1 percent.
The annual average unemployment rate over the course of last year was 4.7 percent 's the smallest rate the country has seen for the past 15 years.
Unemployment has decreased in all age groups, but the most drastic figures have been seen among the youth. The unemployment rate of people aged 15's24, which in 2004 was still over 20 percent, dropped to 10 percent last year.
The rapid decrease in the unemployment rate of non-Estonians also continued 's from 9.7 percent in 2006 to 6.9 percent in 2007. Compared to the rate among Estonians, 3.6 percent, it was still about twice as high.
In 2007, 655,000 persons aged 15's74 were employed, and 359,000 were
economically inactive 's a category including students, retired persons, homemakers, and disabled persons.