Chapter

Estonia: halfway from the Soviet Union to the Nordic countries

Marre Karu and Katre Pall

in The politics of parental leave policies

Published by Policy Press

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9781847420671
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447303961 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1332/policypress/9781847420671.003.0005
Estonia: halfway from the Soviet Union to the Nordic countries

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Social policies such as leave policy do not develop in a vacuum. They are part of the political context and usually follow a rather consistent pathway. However, in some societies, these gradual developments are subject to interruptions when the political context undergoes a major rupture. This has happened twice in Estonia, bringing new radical directions, ideals, and principles. However, in spite of the very different political regimes that have shaped Estonian social policy, these policies, including leave policy, are now becoming similar to the leave policies of Western Europe, specifically the Nordic countries. This chapter aims to elucidate the processes behind the development of leave policy in Estonia, in order understand how the generous parental leave scheme today has come into being and how the policy formation is influenced by the past. In this chapter, the analysis of leave policy follows the major historical developments in Estonia. The second half of the twentieth century in the history of Estonia is marked by two key shifts in the political order that brought major changes in society and social policy. First was the shift from democracy to a totalitarian socialist order in 1940 when Estonia was occupied by the Soviet Union. Under the Soviet Union, full employment and full support for parents prevailed. The second shift was upon the achievement of Estonian independence. This marked a rapid transition to a free market economy and democracy, however social policy was left in the background. But by the turn of the twenty-first century a search for a social model and the need to save the nation from extinction made leave policy a crucial issue. In this chapter, the development of a new parental benefit scheme forms the core of the discussion. Data sources included in the chapter include the legislation from 1944, media reports from 2003, and records of parliamentary proceedings. Interviews with policy makers and other experts in the Ministry of Social Affairs are also included.

Keywords: leave policy; Estonia; Estonian social policy; parental leave; parental benefit scheme

Chapter.  7772 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Marriage and the Family

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