Auditor General Janar Holm in his annual report: the provision of primary public services outside Harju and Tartu counties needs restructuring due to growing labor shortages

Priit Simson | 11/9/2020 | 12:05 PM

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TALLINN, November 9, 2020 – Today, the Auditor General Janar Holm presented to the Speaker of the Riigikogu Henn Põlluaas the annual report of the National Audit Office, which this year focuses on the future of essential public services. The annual report examines the dynamics of recruitment and retirement of family doctors, teachers, police officers and rescuers, and concludes that it should be honestly acknowledged that equal and uniform provision of the quality public services throughout the country is beyond us, especially outside Harju County and Tartu County.

The report points out that the number of vacancies is growing and that the people who could fill jobs in key occupations do not seem to be coming from anywhere, so we need to adapt to reality and not engage in self-deception. "The provision of public services in the periphery needs restructuring and this is due to money, but above all due to the lack of people," Auditor General Janar Holm commented on the main conclusions of the report. “If we look at the recruitment of family doctors, teachers, police officers and rescuers, the whole of Estonia, unlike Harju and Tartu counties, is unfortunately in the role of a periphery - the provision of several primary services is at risk simultaneously. We need to ask ourselves what the realistic minimum level of public service provision in these areas will be in the future and how to ensure this. And there is no reason to be too cheerful in Tallinn and Tartu and their surroundings.”

Hiiumaa, Saaremaa and Läänemaa are in the most difficult situation. The report shows that the most problematic of the primary services is family doctor care, as there will soon be more family doctors retiring than those with whom to fill vacancies. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find new good doctors for GP lists, and the number of failed competitions has quadrupled in the last five years.

Almost half of family doctors are 60 years of age or older, i.e. they are already of retirement age or can retire sooner if they wish. At present, a family doctor retires at an average age of 67. For example, in Hiiumaa, all family doctors are of retirement age or will reach it very soon.

There are lists where a temporary substitute has been working as a family doctor for seven years. Residency graduates often do not want to take responsibility for the list immediately or work away from Tallinn and Tartu.

There is a shortage of subject teachers in general education schools, above all nature and science teachers. Teachers often do not want to go to teach outside the larger centers, and more than a third of Estonian teachers are over the age of 55, i.e. they are currently of retirement age or will reach it within the next ten years.

There is a wave of retirement among rescuers and police officers, and at the same time, there are too few people who would like to do the job. According to the estimates of the Police and Border Guard Board, approximately 350-400 more police officers will leave the service by 2030 than will come to the Academy of Internal Affairs. Due to the turnover of labor, it will soon be necessary to find more than 100 rescuers a year, but there are half as many people who want and are suitable as rescuers, i.e. about 50-55 a year. Thus, a sharp shortage of labor can be predicted in five to ten years, especially for rescuers.

Auditor General Janar Holm admits that it is not easy to find a way out of this situation, because different sectors compete for people and training and retraining takes time. Relief can be provided by a combination of different steps - one way is to create new incentives to attract young people or workers who want to change careers and to train offspring. "To some extent, existing employees can be kept in employment longer, their qualifications can be developed and, if possible, they can be offered jobs in other positions," Holm explained. "In addition, the state can introduce various innovations offered by technical, technological and social innovation to reduce the need for labor. It is possible to increase the share of volunteers up to a certain limit, but it is difficult to imagine that one should go to a hobby family doctor.”

At the same time, Holm emphasized that continuing in the same way would not go away for long. "Realistic requirements must be set for the quality and availability of services, trying to find a balance between the country's capabilities and people's expectations. However, it is possible that these forms of service, which are currently considered temporary - for example, distance learning at school, remote counseling in family medicine, etc. - will become permanent in some regions. And it should be seen as an opportunity, not just a problem."


Priit Simson
Head of Communications of the National Audit Office
+372 640 0102
+372 5615 0280
[email protected]
[email protected]

  • Posted: 11/9/2020 12:05 PM
  • Last Update: 11/10/2020 3:21 PM
  • Last Review: 11/10/2020 3:21 PM

The report shows that the most problematic of the priority services is family doctor care.

Urmas Luik/Pärnu Postimees/Scanpix Baltics

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