Growth of informal-caregiver burden in Estonia

In Europe, Germany and Italy are among the countries with the highest life expectancy after Japan – Europe is the continent with the highest life expectancy. Both genes and environmental factors play a role in the development of human longevity and the age of death (Westendorp 2017). The current average age of death from old age is 85, but at least 40 of these years, people suffer from various health problems.

There is a growing concern and tension in society among politicians, policy makers and ordinary citizens because of the growing number of older people who depend on people of working age. Today, there are three people of working age per one pensioner in Estonia.

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Description automatically generatedCaregivers bear a disproportionate care burden. In Estonia, approximately 30,000 women and 17,000 men have a duty of care. The burden on caregivers is high both in providing care and in paying for care services. People are excluded from the labor market due to the care burden (according to the Labor Force Survey, 8,000 people are out of the labor market and 5,000 work part-time) or are burdened with caring for their loved ones in addition to working full-time. A high care burden affects the caregiver’s own health and the caregiver may become due to the workload care receipient him/herself.

The high care burden and responsibility of family members is due to the low public expenditure on long-term care – for example, public expenditure in Estonia is twice as low as in Germany and almost nine times lower than in Norway.

According to the European Commission’s Aging Report (2015), Estonia’s expenditure on long-term care will increase from 0.6% to 1.3% in 2013-2060, if only the purely demographic impact is taken into account.

Carers will continue to be an important part of the long-term care system for the foreseeable future, and more support must be provided to reduce the negative impact of the care burden on carers’ health and social and economic well-being.

The Maintenance Burden Reduction Task Force was established by a protocol decision of the Government of the Republic of Estonia of 3 December 2015. The aim of the task force was to identify problems related to caring for loved ones and to develop solutions based on people’s needs. So far the official report of the task force is not been published.


*Rudi Westendorp, Growing Older Without Feeling Old: on vitality and ageing (2017)