Estonia has a bright future and Estonians abroad can help shape it

Estonia has a bright future and Estonians abroad can help shape it

We’re just one of many startups who value the skills and experiences of Estonians who choose to return.

The Finnish broadcaster YLE noticed an interesting trend last month. There are now more Finns moving to Estonia than there are Estonians moving to Finland. Alongside that, Estonians who previously moved to Finland are now returning home in ever larger numbers.

Estonian workers increasingly head home as salaries catch up with Finland

For many Estonians looking for work in the past, the grass had always looked greener (or perhaps I should say ‘the snow looked whiter’) on the other side of the Gulf of Finland. The trend reversed in 2017 though after a change in direction on the graph that started back in 2014 and continues today.

I should emphasise that Finland is as great as it’s ever been in so many ways, including in employment opportunities. In fact, real earnings above inflation are consistently growing there.

What’s happening is instead part of a much more significant trend here in Estonia.

Estonia’s population had been in decline for about a quarter of a century, which has been concerning for us, but also an understandable consequence of Estonians gaining the freedom to explore the world and sometimes earn significantly higher salaries elsewhere.

Since 2017, however, Estonia’s population has been consistently growing again.

Population of Estonia increases by 4,690 in 2018

One of the significant factors contributing to this trend is the return of Estonians from abroad. The exact numbers for this are a bit tricky to collect (particularly as some didn’t even notify the Population Registry that they had left), but the anecdotal evidence is now all around us in our families, workplaces, and friendship circles.

And although we were once very concerned about the number of Estonians leaving, we are now encouraged to see people returning, but also pleased to see that they are bringing with them new skills, new experiences, and even new confidences that are incredibly valuable to the future of our country.

Some have been away for months or years, while some may have never even stepped foot in Estonia before and are ‘returning’ several generations after their families left.

Everyone has their own reasons for returning, but the broader trend is clear. Estonia today is a successful forward-looking country with a growing economy and rising living standards so more people want to be here to both benefit and contribute to its continued success.

I’m not going to pretend everything is perfect here. Far from it. We will surely have many more and different challenges ahead.

Yet Estonia has already overcome so many challenges. Reaching this point has been a long struggle, which since re-independence has involved both painful reforms and long-term investments that some people thought might never reach fruition. As a result, we now have a state and business environment that is even attractive to entrepreneurs living and working elsewhere around the world through e-Residency.

E-Residency is just one part of this bigger story in how Estonia is developing. By empowering more people around the world to establish, manage and grow successful companies in our transparent business environment, Estonia is gaining significant benefits in return. The direct financial contribution made to Estonia by e-residents is higher than the amount that Estonians invest in the programme, yet an even larger financial contribution comes simply from e-residents conducting business with other Estonian companies here. In addition, e-residents are helping scale up our country’s development for everyone because the investments that they contribute can then be used by Estonians too. Finally, e-residents are friends of Estonia who are helping tell our country’s story around the world, which is also valuable for our wider prosperity, opportunities and even security.

That’s why Estonia is committed to the development of e-Residency 2.0 to further enhance the programme for entrepreneurs and even spread Estonian culture globally too. This planning process was led by President Kersti Kaljulaid and involved both the public and private sector across Estonia. It has broad support from all political parties represented in our new Parliament.

Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid reveals the future direction of e-Residency

I was planning to leave Estonia myself back in 2015 after a temporary period in which I was asked to help launch this new e-Residency programme. Developing it has been so fascinating and fulfilling since then though that I never managed to leave and am now leading the programme.

But I’m not writing this article to reflect on Estonia’s success in the recent past.

I want you to know that the e-Residency programme is hiring and we need new people who will help continue this story into the future.

Estonia needs passionate people who can support the continued growth of the e-resident community and help bring more benefits to Estonia while empowering entrepreneurs around the world. We’re advertising these jobs in Estonia and most of them require Estonian speaking skills in addition to English, while others have Estonian listed as preferable. An international outlook is essential though because, in addition to talking regularly with Estonians about how can they can get more involved with the programme, we are also constantly talking with e-residents and partners around the world — and we need to understand their perspectives.

One moment you could be talking with a small business owner in Viljandi and the next you could be talking with the CEO of a technology company in Silicon Valley. Both are equally important.

The programme has already been developed by a diverse team of people from around Estonia — from Setomaa to Saaremaa, many of whom moved abroad to Australia, the US, Asia and elsewhere but have now come home because they believe the future is here. We’ve also been joined by international team members who previously worked in places including Silicon Valley, the US Congress and the French Presidential Palace but are now inspired to support Estonia’s development and, we all think, help make the world a better place.

So I want to reach out to Estonians abroad who might be considering whether Estonia could be your home again. Or you may know someone who fits that description.

If you decided to return to Estonia then we would welcome you and value you, including the new skills and experiences that you have gained from being abroad. We will even be keen to discuss how we can help with your relocation if that means being able to welcome you home to Estonia.

E-Residency job listings are available here, although you are also welcome to email me directly on [email protected] if you think you can make a valuable contribution to the future of the programme.

In the early years, the programme’s success was mostly measured by increasing the total number of e-residents for Estonia around the world. Our goals have since become ever more focused on ensuring people in Estonia and around the world gain as much value from the programme as possible, first by measuring the number of new Estonian companies established by e-residents and now by also measuring how those companies are growing and making an ever larger economic contribution here in Estonia. If you were to join our team (regardless of your specific role) then you would take on that shared responsibility with us in partnership with people across the public and private sector, both in Estonia and beyond.

And if it doesn’t work out with us then remember that we are not the only ‘startup’ in Estonia currently hiring either. Why not check other opportunities in Estonia, such as through Jobbatical listings.

And if you are not ready to return yet then I would encourage you, at the very least, to stay connected to Estonia with an active Estonian digital ID card and join opportunities to connect with both Estonians and e-residents elsewhere in the world. As an Estonian, you already have the same opportunities to operate in our country online from abroad — such as when starting and running a company — that so many people around the world value by becoming e-residents.

Estonia has a bright future and Estonians abroad can help shape it was originally published in E-Residency Blog, E-residentsuse blogi on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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