Global Estonian | Study: young people leaving Estonia is usually not a lifelong decision
Study: young people leaving Estonia is usually not a lifelong decision
Photo: Kristiine Volt (Barcelona)

Study: young people leaving Estonia is usually not a lifelong decision

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Although the emigration of Estonian youth has increased rapidly in the last ten years thanks to Estonia's membership of the European Union and the availability of international travel, young people consider emigration from Estonia to be a temporary idea in most cases - often until the end of a scholarship, school or employment contract, according to a study commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and carried out by the Institute of Cultural Sciences of the University of Tartu, which analyzed the departure of young people from Estonia and reasons for return.

The study shows that the return of young people is closely related to emigration motives. For example, young people who leave for economic or family reasons are unlikely to link their future to Estonia, but those who leave for the purpose of education, professional development or travel are more likely to return home. The study also showed that the Russian-speaking community is less likely to return to Estonia than the Estonian-speaking community.

Returning to Estonia is most influenced by job offers here, the salary figures of which would be equivalent to those earned abroad. Many young people are also influenced by backward friendships and home culture. However, the decision to stay abroad is primarily influenced by better job offers and social guarantees there, as well as family reasons. The survey also revealed that both returnees and Estonians staying abroad mostly maintain relations with Estonia, using Estonian digital services as well as consuming Estonian media channels.

"The foreign perspective of young people is very useful for Estonia and can encourage innovation and positive social changes," said Terje Toomistu, one of the study's co-authors. "Therefore, the international experience of young people must be actively supported, while also taking into account work experience gained abroad and involving foreign young people in Estonian social discussions. This not only helps to strengthen the ties between young people and Estonia, but also encourages them to contribute to Estonian society."

"It was very positive to hear that, according to the survey, as many as 80% of the surveyed young people feel Estonian and consider their Estonian identity important," emphasized Marin Mõttus, the Ambassador at Large for the Estonian Diaspora. "This is a good basis for moving forward with concrete measures that would support young people in their decision to return to Estonia or contribute to the development of Estonian society in other ways."

The study is based on data collected within the framework of the research project "Young Estonians in the Global Information Circulation: Residence Choices in the Growing Diaspora" (short for "Young Estonians Abroad") conducted at the Institute of Cultural Sciences of the University of Tartu. The authors of the study are Terje Toomistu, Aet Annist and Rein Murakas. The project was implemented mainly with the support of the Noor-Eesti research grant of the SA Postimehe Foundation, this report was prepared on the order of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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