Estonia ranks high in social justice index – but not everything is peachy

Estonia ranks 12th in this year’s Bertelsmann Foundation’s Social Justice in the EU index; however, the country ranks lowest in health-related issues, like the people’s healthy lifespan and inequality across income groups.

“Across the six social justice dimensions that comprise our index, Estonia places among the top ten in three dimensions (intergenerational justice, labor market access and equitable education). On our subindex focusing on children and youth, Estonia places 6th with a score of 6.77,” the foundation says in its index.

“Estonia generally demonstrates the greatest success with respect to ensuring outcomes are intergenerationally just. With a score of 6.69, the country ranks 4th in the EU,” the report notes, adding that Estonia has one of the most generous parental benefit systems in the OECD, entitling parents to benefits equal to their previous salary for 435 days. “The government can also be lauded for having maintained the lowest level of public debt in the EU throughout the crisis.”

Estonia ranks poorly in health

However, not everything is peachy in the tiny Nordic country. The report goes on mentioning that the national economy is “still dependent on energy-heavy technologies”, and as a consequence, “Estonia ranks 26th for its high greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, ahead of only Ireland and Luxembourg”.

When it comes to health, then Estonia ranks particularly poorly. “On average, Estonians can expect 55.1 years without a limitation in functioning and without disability, placing the country 26th, ahead only of Slovakia and Latvia,” the report says, adding that while Estonians have, on average, gained three years compared with 2006, “their healthy lifespan is 19 years shorter than in Sweden and Malta”.

“In 2015 (the latest reported year), 12.7% of surveyed Estonians reported not getting medical attention because of cost, distance or long waiting lists,” which puts Estonia 28th – or last – in the ranking. The foundation also says that the most significant social problem with the Estonian health care system is inequality across income groups – access to health service is not universal, but depends on insurance status. “Members of the working-age population not employed or in school are not covered by the national health insurance program,” the report points out.

Seniors at a very high risk of being socially excluded

The index also shows that seniors are at a very high risk of being poor or socially excluded – Estonia scores 26th, just above Latvia and Bulgaria. Also, in the in-work poverty rate, Estonia is not doing too well – the country only ranks 19th.

In the overall index, the country with the greatest social justice in the European Union is Denmark, followed by Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic. At the bottom of the index we find Greece, preceded by Romania and Bulgaria.

The Bertelsmann Foundation’s annual EU Social Justice Index investigates levels of poverty, social cohesion, job opportunities, education, discrimination and health issues in all 28 EU member states.

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Cover: People forming the map of Estonia (the image is illustrative/Shutterstock).

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About the author: Sten Hankewitz

Sten Hankewitz is a lifelong journalist and Deputy Editor of Estonian World. Having lived in Estonia, Spain and the UK, he now resides in the United States. He loves to write and besides contributing to Estonian World and some occasional blogging, he writes for other media outlets in Estonia, Israel and elsewhere. He has strong convictions and he shows them unashamedly. You can follow him on Twitter, friend him on Facebook or check out his personal blog. You can write to Sten at sten@estonianworld.com.