TALLINN - Restrictions imposed in Estonia ahead of its January 2011 eurozone entry have halved the amount of sick leave taken by employees, a study released on Monday said, reports the Postimees daily Web site. The plunge in health-related work absence came after the center-right government of Prime Minister Andrus Ansip implemented new rules on sick leave. As a result, Estonia’s state-funded Health Insurance Fund paid out 42 percent less compensation to those on sick leave in 2010 compared to 2009, it said.
“During the first half of 2009, some 217,000 cases of sick leave were registered, while after the new rules introduced on July 1, 2009, the number decreased to 119,000 in the first half of 2010,” Postimees wrote.
“Every day some people complain to us they can’t take sick leave because they have loans to pay. In the longer term, such austerity measures have a very bad impact on public health,” Marika Kabal, a lawyer for the Estonian Patients’ Union, was quoted as saying.
“The outcome of such austerity measures is that the state initially saved quite a lot of money, but in the longer term it has to pay much more to treat more serious illnesses than the common cold,” a Postimees editorial said.
Estonia, a nation of 1.3 million people which joined the EU in 2004 and the eurozone this January, has emerged from a 14.1-percent economic contraction in 2009 - one of the world’s sharpest recessions.
In spring 2010, joblessness peaked at near 20 percent in the Baltic EU state, but unemployment declined to 10.9 percent in the third quarter of 2011 on the heels of an economic recovery.