November 07, 2016 - Comments Off on Milburn Lewis – Making the Move Blog. Part VII – Tallinn, Estonia

Milburn Lewis – Making the Move Blog. Part VII – Tallinn, Estonia

Milburn Lewis is a recruitment business that conducts cross-border searches for our clients, the Big 4 and other international accountancy firms. Most of the professionals we work with are not just considering a career move, but also relocation.

We are traveling to Tallinn, Estonia for the second in our three-part series exploring the Central and East European (CEE) region.

Tallinn offers an outstanding location in which to grow and develop your career. With a fantastic work/life balance, a thriving economy, and a cosmopolitan culture, we have enjoyed helping professionals ‘Make the Move’ to Estonia for several years.

Welcome to Estonia

The Republic of Estonia is a sovereign state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. One of Europe’s smallest nations, Estonia is comparable in size to the Dominique Republic and Denmark. Estonia offers professionals a competitive business climate, a resilient and stable economy, and easy access to the rest of the European Union.

Estonia is widely considered to be one of European’s primary tourist attractions. It is bordered to the north by Finland; to the west by the Baltic Sea; to the south by Latvia; and to the east by Lake Peipus and Russia. The territory of Estonia consists of the mainland and over 2,222 islands and islets located in the Baltic Sea.

Like countries previously featured in our ‘Making the Move’ series, Estonia is small when compared to other world states at only 45,400 km2. The total population is around 1.3 million, with around 8 percent of residents being characterised as ‘foreign born’.

Estonia is a multicultural country, one that has a relatively large population of immigrants and tourists, as well as a diverse ethnic make-up. Estonians make up 68 percent, whilst Russians account for a further 25 percent. Given Estonia’s location and history, one might not be surprised to find out that Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Finns are the next groups. Citizens of other states make-up 8 percent of the population.

There is one official language in Estonia: Estonian. Under the constitution there are also two regional languages, which are spoken by a small proportion of the overall population: Võro and Seto. Given the country Soviet history, around 66% of the population speak Russian. This is followed by English (46%), German (22%), and Finnish as the main foreign languages.

The Republic of Estonia is a parliamentary republic, with its national parliament (Riigikogu) based in the country’s capital, Tallinn. Its head of state is President Kersti Kaljulaid, and its head of government is Prime Minister Taavi Raivas. The current government is a coalition between the liberal Estonian Reform Party, Social Democratic Party and conservative Pro Patria and Res Publica Union.

On 1st May 2004, Estonia became a full member state of the European Union. This affords all Estonian citizens EU citizenship and all the benefits that come with it, including freedom of movement. As a condition of membership, Estonia adopted the Euro as its currency. The Estonia Kroon was officially replaced by the Euro on 1st January 2011.

The Estonian economy is characterised as being an ‘advanced economy’ by the International Monetary Fund. It’s total GDP is $35 billion, which equates to around $29,500 per capita. In 2015, Estonia’s growth was only around 1%; however, the Estonian economy has recovered considerably better than most European states in the aftermath of the 2009 recession. Its total debt is only 10% of GDP, which has resulted in a competitive business environment that is receiving significant external investment for some of the world’s largest companies, including the Big 4.

Living and Working in Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn is the capital and largest city in the Republic of Estonia, with over 542,000 people living in the metropolitan area and around 443,800 in the city centre. Tallinn is frequently referred to as one of Europe’s cultural goldmines due to its diverse population, museums, festivals, bars, and restaurants.

Tallinn has over 60 museums and galleries within its city limits. Laudvaljak, the Estonian Music Festival, is hosted annually and attracts thousands of festival-goers from around the world. The Tallinn Black Nights film festival brings glitz and glamor to Tallinn every year with some of Hollywood’s A-list actors choosing to attend this growing event. And, of course, there is a wealth of bars and restaurants to meet everyone’s taste.

Although it’s the largest city in Estonia, Tallinn is one of Europe’s – and indeed the world’s – smallest capitals. Spread over only 159 km2 it is comparable to Toulouse, France and Cardiff, United Kingdom. It has excellent public transport links, which is made up buses, trams, and trolley bus that serve all districts in Tallinn.

As well as offering an exceptional work/life balance, Estonia also presents professionals with fantastic opportunities for career development. In recent years, the Big 4 firms have all announced their intentions of investing heavily both in Estonia and the wider CEE region. This is particularly evident in the cyber security and data analytic areas, which have seen significant investment over the last 18 months.

Like most European cities we’ve explored, there is a healthy immigrant community in Estonia, attracting professionals and tourists from across the world. It is therefore highly likely that wherever you come from, you will find someone from your country of origin – making Estonia a great choice for professionals looking to make an international move.

The Practicalities: Right to Work

Estonia has been a member of the EU since 2004. Therefore, citizens of EU member states do not require a visa or work permit to travel, reside, or gain employment in Estonia.

If you are a non-EU citizen, or ‘third-party national’, the process does become more complicated. However, it is important to highlight that it is a lot easier for third-party nationals to gain a work permit in Estonia compared to some EU countries in Western Europe. If a professional is offered employment in Estonia, the prospective employer must be on an approved sponsors list and must apply to the Estonian government for the required visa and work permit.

If successful, the professional will be issued ‘short term residence’, which lasts up to five years. This can be extended once; however, after five years’ eligible candidates can apply for a long-term residence – after meeting certain criteria set out by the Estonian authorities.

The Practicalities: Cost of Living in Tallinn

Like other former Soviet states, the cost of living in Tallinn is reletively low compared to other cities and states in the European Union. In Tallinn, your primary expenditure will be accommodation, transport, food, and, of course, taxes.

The relatively low cost of living is extremely attractive to professionals looking to gain valuable skills and experience outside of the larger markets such as London and New York. The single largest expenditure in Tallinn will be accommodation. Rent for a 1 bedroom apartment in city centre Tallinn is around €460, whilst a 3-bedroom in the same location is roughly €740. For those who prefer to live outside the city centre, you’ll find a 3-bedroom apartment/house for about €500.

All residents in Estonia are required to pay income tax. The current rate of tax in Estonia is 20 percent; however, there are several reductions one can take, which means that most individuals end up paying much less than the original figure. Employees in Estonia are also required to contribute through their paid income to ‘social tax’, ‘unemployment insurance’, and the ‘funded pension payment scheme’. The social tax has a maximum levy of 33 percent, unemployment insurance 2.8 percent, and pensions 2 percent.

Although this might appear to be a relatively high tax environment, residents do benefit from a vast of social benefits, including free healthcare. It should be noted that one can also elect to purchase private health insurance through several different providers. For those who are thinking not only about their career but starting a family, the Estonian government grants one parent 100 percent of their former salary for 18 months in the way of maternity pay. This is available to those who have gained long-term residency after 5 years living and working in Estonia.

Concluding Remarks: Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn is a city that offers Big 4 professionals the opportunity to advance their career, whilst simultaneously achieving an exceptional standard of living. If you’re committed to a move to Estonia, or simply curious to know more about our clients and the roles available, email

Published by: Ian James in Blogs

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