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Life in Transition: Estonia

Key findings (%, weighted)

Estonia Average Transition region Average Western Europe
Satisfied with life 54 43 72
Trust in others 47 34 42
Perceive less corruption than four years ago 21 21 9
Concerned about climate change 43 54 54
Support both market economy and democracy 31 34 42
Households affected by the crisis 50 49 31

Impact of the crisis

  • The global economic crisis has had a significant impact on Estonian households. While the overall effect in Estonia is comparable to the transition region average, certain sections of the population have been hit more severely than others. The crisis has especially affected people in the 40-59 age group and those in the lower-income bracket.

Life satisfaction

  • Life satisfaction has decreased but remains well above the transition region average. Just over one-half of Estonians seem satisfied with life, which is much higher than their Baltic neighbours. However, satisfaction has fallen across most age and income categories, particularly the younger generation and the lower-income bracket. This could reflect a perceived worsening of the socio-economic climate in the country, as only 15 per cent of respondents believe that the situation has improved since 2006.

    Optimism in a better future for today’s children has decreased but remains comparable to the transition region average. The level of optimism has fallen almost uniformly across age and income brackets and has registered a significant drop of almost 20 percentage points.

Attitudes towards democracy and market economy

  • About 30 per cent of respondents prefer a combination of democracy and a planned economy over other political and economic systems. This compares well with less than 10 per cent who would prefer, under some circumstances, an authoritarian regime and planned economy. As in most of the transition region, about 75 per cent would exchange some political liberties to live in a country with robust economic growth. Respondents differ in their assessments of their country’s economic and political model: one-half think they live in a country with weak growth but full political liberties, while about one-third believe that the country has weak growth and also few liberties.

    About one-third of respondents think that the country enjoys the basic democratic institutions, which compares well with the western European comparators. There is less confidence, however, in the protection of minority rights or the existence of impartial courts and a strong opposition.

Generalised and institutional trust

  • The level of general trust has risen since 2006, with 48 per cent of respondents claiming to trust others. This remains well above the average for the transition region and is above western European comparator levels. In addition to trusting their families, Estonian respondents are much more likely than those in other transition countries to be trustful towards friends and acquaintances and those of other religions and nationalities.

    Trust in public institutions is relatively high and comparable to western European comparator levels. It has remained stable since 2006 or even slightly increased. Respondents especially trust the armed forces and the police, but have low levels of trust in political parties.

Corruption perception

  • The level of perceived corruption is relatively low and has remained stable since 2006. In fact, the rate of corruption experience in Estonia is one the lowest in the transition region. It is not surprising that Estonia is a transition economy with the highest level of satisfaction with the quality and efficiency of public services. The rate of increase in satisfaction is also one of the highest in the region. About one-fifth of Estonians think that the level of corruption has fallen. Most do not approve when a public official asks for favours or gifts in return for a service. Less than two per cent of respondents report making unofficial payments when dealing with public authorities, which is comparable to western European comparator levels. However, as in most transition countries, perceived corruption in the public health system is more common than in the rest of the public sec-tor.

Priorities for government spending

  • More than two-thirds of respondents think that extra government funds should be directed towards the education and public health systems. About one-fifth think that further spending should be targeted towards the poor, while some 80 per cent believe that the gap between rich and poor should be reduced. The priorities for government spending are very much in line with those expressed by survey respondents in western European countries.

Full report

  • The Life in Transition Survey provides vivid evidence of precisely how lives have been affected by the global economic crisis and its aftermath.

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