Studies show that there is a global shortage of labor in the social sector, especially in long-term care. Critical shortages in this field have emerged as a result of deinstitutionalization, but also because of demographic changes. Even in the case of political and administrative changes, the labor shortage is growing – the need for case managers, supervisors, caregivers and other specialists is increasing. In the Estonian context, there is a shortage of workforce, but not a very high prioritization of the field. As a large part of the care sector is also in the hands of the private sector, the public sector can mainly address labor shortages by setting standards and raising the minimum wage. The situation where care workers make up a large part of the migrant workforce is also widespread in the European Union member states – Estonia, however, has no clear national level position on this matter.
In the Estonian context, there is a critical shortage of labor, but not a very high priority in the field. As a large part of the sector is also in the private sector, the public sector can only address labor shortages by setting standards and raising the minimum wage. Employers have the power to offer motivation packages – more flexible working hours, longer holidays, meals during work, compensation for work transport and more. Lower-than-average wages in the social sector make filling and retaining jobs a major challenge. Estonia does not differ from other European Union countries in this problem. The low salary of a care worker (€ 535 per month in 2014, which was only half the average salary in Estonia) is not motivating, but raising the salary is a difficult measure. Labor is being lost to similar jobs in other sectors (eg., health) as well as to other sectors competing for wages (eg., trade and services). The COVID-19 pandemic and the related social welfare crisis clearly highlighted the importance of having a sufficient number of staff to ensure the quality and availability of services, even when some staff and recipients are ill and / or in quarantine.