During the Soviet regime, much of the workforce was recruited from Russia, Belorussia and the Ukraine, leading to high levels of ethnic urban segregation. Today, socioeconomic segregation are also became increasingly prevalent and whilst social inequalities tend to be less pronounced in Tallinn, compared to other Estonian cities, social and ethnic sorting in the housing market still takes place. Places of residence disadvantage are linked to social networks and communities, further adding to accumulated disadvantage.
As the capital of Estonia, Tallinn is also the country’s financial and business centre, having a strong labour market. Following 1990, the city experienced a massive decline in population, but in the past two decades the population has stabilised and begin to grow again. During the Soviet regime, much of the workforce was recruited from Russia, Belorussia and the Ukraine. Housing estates were built in order to house the influx of workers and since migrants were given priority access to this new rental housing, high levels of ethnic urban segregation followed.
Today, there are almost as many Russian as Estonian speakers, and after Estonia regained its independence in 1991, socioeconomic segregation also became increasingly prevalent. Russian speakers earn less, on average, than their Estonian peers. Whilst social inequalities tend to be less pronounced in Tallinn, compared to other Estonian cities, social and ethnic sorting in the housing market still takes place. Places of residence disadvantage are linked to social networks and communities, further adding to accumulated disadvantage. Educational outcomes are not yet linked to a school’s location within the city, but neighbourhood level disadvantage is evident in other factors.
Housing and rental prices have made it increasingly difficult for many young people in Tallinn to access housing. Many rely on parental support, and so, where this is absent, disadvantage is quickly also transmitted into other life domains (the school choice, social networks, job opportunities, etc). Some neighbourhoods are linked with group-specific vulnerabilities, which may pose the threat of accumulating over generations. For example, some estates are characterised by high ethnic segregation – concentrating Russian speaking groups. Due to the lack of Estonian language skills among these groups and a divided schooling system favouring the Russian language, young people from these groups have less opportunities for upward social mobility .Young people with certain vulnerabilities are facing difficulties in particular in the transition from education to employment. Although the share of NEET-youths has decreased in recent years, it is still a crucial problem that needs attention and low education is a key risk factor for belonging to the at-risk group.
The educational system in Estonia and in Tallinn provides high standards of education and equal opportunities for all children. Whilst not very typically prevalent, the differences between the Russian-language schools and Estonian-language based schools do exist, and they are growing. In late 2018, there were about 25,500 NEETs in Estonia and approximately 8000 inactive young people in need for interventions in Tallinn. The “Hoog sisse” program was launched in 2019, in an effort to engage young people (aged 15 to 26 years) and support their return into education or employment.
Through UPLIFT, the Association of Estonian Open Youth Centres (AYEC) will better understand the needs and vulnerabilities of at-risk young people, develop a soft skills development programme and a digital outreach programme. The skills training aims to make work or school reintegration successful and sustainable, whilst the digital communication will explore ways in which a broader audience of at-risk youth can be involved.
Problem Statement and Target Group
Just as many other European countries and cities, Tallinn accommodates an important group of young people that are not in ‘education, training or employment’ (NEET youth). NEET youth often faces both economic and social exclusion and their life chances tend to be limited. In the case of Tallinn, language issues may come on top of that since many Tallinn NEET youth are non-Estonian (Russian speakers). Although various policies to reach and help this group are already in place, there is still room for further improvement. Therefore, the goal of the Tallinn action plan is to improve the current policies for NEET youth. More in particular, the main societal objective of this local action plan is to re-design the service for NEET-youth, including the development of a virtual youth centre/platform to improve access to services for young people. This will be done with the help of a co-creation process in which various stakeholders, and of course also the young people themselves, play an important role. The target group for the Estonian action plan are NEET young people aged between 15 and 25.
In Estonia., policies for NEET youth are carried out by a range of institutions working in the field of youth, labour market and education policies, at both the national and the municipal (Tallinn)level. The main implementer partner will be the Association of Estonian OpenYouth Centres (AEYC). This is a nationwide umbrella organisation of youth centres in Estonia with about 190 members. AEYC cooperates with state and local governments, youth organizations in Estonia and abroad, and other institutions involved in youth work. AEYC develops local and international projects and partnerships shaping youth policy at the national and local level.
In the co-creation process, the young people will be represented by a so-called youth board. In the case of Tallinn, the youth board equals the Tallinn City Youth Council. This is a youth representative body of the Tallinn City Council. The aim of the Council is to represent the city youth and to stand for their rights and interests. Doing so, the council monitors the existing municipal policies. Moreover, it can lobby and submit suggestions for the possible improvements of these policies. The Council consists of 21 young persons aged 14-26, who are democratically elected and stay on for a year. Within the council, there are three electoral segments that each have 7 elected members: pupils, students and clients of youth NGO-s (among which NEET youth). The Tallinn Youth Council has several committees and working groups and is managed by a 3 member board. All youth council members are volunteers that are not paid for their activities.
AEYC is currently working on several policies and instruments that reach out to, and try the improve the situation of, NEET youth. Examples are the set-up of digital means that will facilitate the access to the NEET, and that will give a better insight into their needs. Furthermore, training sessions are organized that aim to enhance the capabilities of theNEET youth target group. These initiatives will be further developed in close cooperation with the NEET youth themselves, as well as with the Tallinn youth council and other relevant stakeholders. Various research qualitative research approaches, including in-depth interviews and focus groups are applied for this purpose.
Tallinn Urban Story Our storymaps draw together insights on inequalities and policies affecting urban youth, across education, employment and housing, from the WP2 urban reports and data analyses.