Sustainability in Estonia has both positive and negative trends

Posted on 30 October 2009, 10:00

According to Statistics Estonia, during the last decade Estonia experienced a fast progress towards economic welfare, but the same cannot be said in regard to social coherence, ecological balance and developments in the cultural space. Nevertheless, both negative and positive trends can be witnessed in all these spheres.

The Estonian National Strategy on Sustainable Development targets the movement of the society towards four development goals — preservation of the viability of Estonian culture, growth of welfare of the population, increased social coherence and maintaining of ecological balance.

Regarding positive trends, decrease in inequality and increase in average life expectancy can be pointed out. While in 2007 the income of the most affluent group of the society exceeded that of the poorest by five-fold, the gap was still six-fold in 2000. Increasing life expectancy as a trend is specific not only to Estonia, life expectancy is on the rise also in other countries of the European Union. In 2008, life expectancy at birth in Estonia reached 74 years, while eight years earlier it was 71. During the last decade we have also witnessed a decrease in the child poverty risk and a progress in the health indicators of the population.

The following negative trends can be pointed out. The proportion of adolescents without basic education continues to be high (14% of adolescents were without basic education in 2008, while in 2003 the respective percentage was13%) and crime among the adolescent population is on the increase (in 2008 the number of crimes committed by minors increased by 12% compared to a year earlier). Air pollution and quantities of waste as well as mining and firing of oil shale have increased again. In 2007 the volume of oil shale mining increased by 17% compared to a year earlier. In 2007, 21 million tons of waste was generated which is twice the amount generated in 2000.

The period from 2000 to 2007 saw a rapid increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) while it dropped in 2008. Thus, Estonian per capita GDP, which was 45% of the European Union average in 2000, increased to 68% by 2008. Together with the increase in GDP and the accompanying increase in the welfare also the gross external debt of Estonia increased. The gross external debt exceeded the annual GDP of Estonia in 2008 and has increased by almost six-fold since 2000. On the other hand, the general government debt was small compared to other European Union countries.

A more detailed analysis will be published today, on 30 October, in the collection “Säästva arengu näitajad. Indicators of Sustainable Development”. The indicators of sustainable development in Estonia are also available on Statistics Estonia’s website under the heading "Dashboard of Sustainability” (/uudised/dashboard). The Dashboard provides an opportunity to compare the counties and municipalities of Estonia as well as to make a comparison between Estonia and other European countries.

Statistics Estonia will introduce the referred collection and the Dashboard of Sustainability on 11 November during the forum arranged by the State Chancellery “Jätkusuutliku arengu mõõtmine — kas mõõdame õigeid asju õige mõõdupuuga?” (“Sustainable development monitoring — are we measuring the right processes against the right scales?”) (