Economic structure in counties is changing
According to Statistics Estonia, based on the gross domestic product, the differences in the economic structure of the counties are increasing.
The share of Harju county in the Estonian gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014 was 12.4 billion euros at current prices, 9 billion euros of which came from Tallinn. Harju County was followed by Tartu and Ida-Viru counties, which respectively accounted for 10 percent and 8 percent of the Estonian GDP. Hiiu and Põlva counties had the smallest share, each having contributed less than 1 percent of the Estonian GDP.
In 2014, more than 68 percent of the gross value added in Estonia was created in the service sector, while industry and construction accounted for 28 percent, and agriculture, forestry and fishing for 3 percent of added value.
The continuously growing service sector was the largest sector in all the counties except for Ida-Viru county
In 2014, the GDP per capita was 15,186 euros, which was 759 euros more than a year earlier. The GDP per capita was the highest in Harju county, exceeding the Estonian average by 43 percent. Harju County was followed by Tartu and Ida-Viru counties, where the GDP per capita was respectively 14 percent and 31 percent below the Estonian average. The GDP per capita was the lowest in Põlva county.
Estonia struggles with dwindling export volumes
Around 20 percent of all companies in Estonia export their goods or services. Although the number of exporting companies – currently 14,500 – has increased, export volumes have gone down.
According to Statistics Estonia, export of goods in October 2015 decreased by 12 percent compared to October of 2014. Compared to September 2015, export showed a 2 percent increase. The dwindling export volume is part of a larger trend, experts say.
According to Tea Danilov, director of the Entrepreneurship and Export Centre of Enterprise Estonia, recent difficulties and crises have made entrepreneurs very careful and conservative. Many are simply too afraid to get burnt again to embark on any ambitious export projects.
Rising labor costs have also melted away the price advantage Estonian producers formerly had over many competitors, Danilov said. “What helps in this situation is product development. Companies must find ways to charge higher prices even if salaries and labor costs go up. Product development and export are the two sides of the same coin: product development does not pay off without export, and you cannot export for long without product development,” she explained.
In order to help Estonian producers enter new markets, the government decided today to establish a new cooperation platform named Team Estonia. The organization will also be tasked with attracting foreign investments to Estonia.
According to Danilov, one of the most promising export sectors in Estonia is its service sector – export financial, medical and IT services have recently showed an upward trend.
The biggest share in Estonia's exports in October was held by electrical equipment (20 percent of total exports), followed by agricultural products and food preparations (12 percent), and wood and products thereof (10 percent). The biggest decrease occurred in the exports of mineral products and electrical equipment.
In October, exports from Estonia amounted to 1 billion euros and imports to Estonia to 1.1 billion euros.
Reflectors from Estonian company decorate National Christmas Tree in Washington
The products of Estonian reflector manufacturer SoftReflector have for three years been decorating one of the world's most iconic Christmas trees, the United States National Christmas Tree in Washington D.C., ETV's evening magazine program “Ringvaade” revealed.
SoftReflector's marketing manager Helina Saarniit told “Ringvaade” that the company is well known in its field but has never aimed to be known to the end consumers.
The company started active production over a decade ago and was the first to manufacture reflective products from zero to the end: starting from making the molds for custom shapes, then the digital imprint, and ending with packing and sending the goods out.
These days its high-tech facilities are capable of producing up to 80,000 reflectors in a single day.
The vast majority of these are exported. For instance, SoftReflector's reflectors, tags and bands decorate NHL hockey league products and even the National Christmas Tree in Washington, which is traditionally lighted in by the US president in the annual tree lighting ceremony.
Reflectors are technologically complicated to manufacture, Saarniit said, adding that the company has several production secrets and until a year ago no stranger was allowed to visit its factory.
Indian IT giant HCL Technologies opens development center in Estonia
Leading global IT service provider HCL Technologies, one of eight technology companies in the world to earn a revenue of over a billion dollars in 2014, opened its brand new development center in Tallinn today. The opening was attended by the President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Minister of Entrepreneurship Liisa Oviir.
The new development center will serve key clients from all over mainland Europe but mainly focus on financial sector customers in the Nordic and Benelux countries.
HCL Technologies' President of Financial Services Sales Rahul Singht said the company believes in investing in strategic locations like Tallinn, where the abundance of tech talent allows them to offer their clients the best possible service.
The newly opened branch in Tallinn is the ninth in Europe for the company that services more than 200 clients in this part of the world. It has 21 development centers in total.
The offices are located in Ülemiste City and will by the end of 2016 employ 100 specialists.
The company currently employs over 105,000 people in 31 countries. Last year it had a turnover of 6.1 billion US dollars.
Estonia ranks high for English proficiency
EF Education First released today the 5th annual edition of EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI), the world's largest ranking of countries by English skills. Estonia occupies a respectable seventh place out of 70 countries and is classified as having a very high proficiency level.
Sweden ranks first for English skills, closely followed by the Netherlands and other other Nordic countries – Denmark, Norway and Finland. Slovenia is sixth and Estonia seventh. It's the Arab countries and Cambodia that come in last.
Compared to last year, both Estonia's ranking and total score have improved. Yet it is still lacking from repeating its best ever fourth place.
Estonia stands out in the index for the slightly better language skills of the male population. In other countries, women tend to have the upper hand when it comes to speaking English.
This fifth edition of the EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) ranks 70 countries and territories based on test data from more than 910,000 adults who took online English tests in 2014.
According to the test results, the gap between the highest and lowest proficiency countries has widened, with the top-ranked country, Sweden, a full 33 points above Libya, in last place.
Worldwide, English proficiency levels are highest among young adults aged 18-20. However, on a global level, the difference in English ability between age cohorts is extremely small for adults under 30. On a national level, the story is quite different, with some countries showing stark generational differences and others almost none.