Next to those now working abroad and folks drawn to major hubs inside of Estonia to find employment, there are the 30,000 others who do some significant commuting from place to place. On occasions, job and home are half a hundred miles apart.
Labour migration – the modern way to put it – knows no county lines. Here, other criteria come into play, the main thing being balance between making it financially, and family relations. As long as salary prevails over gasoline bill, and the family does fine, all is well.
In these times when administrative reform has become a topic-to-avoid in high society – lest one tread on any toes – people have come up with ways to relieve the situation on their own. Estonia does have regions amounting to life of luxury – costlier than dwelling in a city.
And that not just because jobs and vital institutions are at the distance of a tank of gas ever more expensive or a bus ride not available too often, but because simple basic needs such as food and other staple goods may be more expensive than in town. If, despite all that, there are people for whom other values overcome the downsides of country-life, and for whom this financially works, let us rejoice. After all, at least partly it is thanks to folks like these that schools are still alive in some rural areas, villages have functioning centres, and the post-office and police are still hanging in there.
Even so, working far from home only makes sense when it’s is worth the trouble of travelling the distance. When it becomes harsh inevitability, done at the expense of other things, it may no longer be considered normal.
Wage poverty – a relatively new term in our everyday politics – refers to a situation where people working full-time and exercising austerity still don’t make ends meet financially. As revealed by European Report on Employment and Social Development published at the start of the year, in only half of cases work helps people out of poverty – mainly when it’s well paid, but also when reaching the workplace isn’t overly expensive. In an opinion article in today’s Postimees, entrepreneur Karli Lambot writes about the tax changes by coalition-to-be which, despite inclusion of soc dems, rather see to the interests of the wealthier. The writer shows how, last year, half of those employed in Estonia earned under €574 a month – and to those the tax amendments bring no meaningful relief.
Alas, a substantial percentage of such lower-income-people live in the country. And, regrettably, labour migration for them is no big panacea. If the costs of working far away bite too much off one’s salary, a person has a choice: do I make peace with wage poverty and lower living standards, or do I move closer to the job.
For too long, keeping the countryside going has been the burden of the people alone. And, probably, that’s the way it’s going to be for quite some time, as long as labour migration refrains from breaking marriages, causing poverty and making people miserable in some other ways. While there is happiness, there is peace – despite of all the reforms left languishing.