Family & Daily Life in Estonia
The number of births is increasing again. Many young people prefer cohabitation to marriage and are in no hurry to tie the knot even when they have children. An average Estonian family has 1-3 children, and grandparents live separately. Families come together at Christmas and birthday parties.
The extended family meets at important jubilee celebrations, but extended family reunions are also popular. The genealogy of Estonian families mostly reaches back to the 18th century, and earlier information is vague or was destroyed in the Great Northern War (which took place from 1700-1710 on Estonian territory). Considering Estonia’s modest population (1.3 million), it is not rare to find a distant relative in the course of a casual conversation.
Estonian family life is more or less closed to strangers. However, when a colleague invites you home, you should seize the opportunity. Forming close friendships takes time, but once you are accepted, you will find sincere and faithful friends.
State family benefits are paid to permanent inhabitants of Estonia and aliens living in Estonia on the basis of a temporary residence permit. Citizens of the EU who have come to work here can also apply for Estonian family benefits for children who are not living in Estonia. You should submit an application for an allowance to the Social Insurance Board’s local pension office within six month after coming to work in Estonia and also present your passport with a residence permit and the child’s birth certificate.
A considerable amount of Estonian family benefits is paid out in the first 1.5 years of a child’s life. Read about the childbirth allowance and parental benefit in our Birth and parental benefit tab.
The child allowance is paid monthly to one of the parents of a child under the age of 16, and in case the child continues his/her studies, the child allowance is paid until the 19th birthday. Child allowance is currently 50 € per month for first and second child and 100 € per month for third and every following child. These benefits are paid by the Social Insurance Board.
A considerable amount of Estonian family benefits is paid out in the first 1.5 years of a child’s life.
If your child is born in Estonia there is a special childbirth allowance (320 Euros as of 1st of January 2013) from the state. In addition to the application, you should submit to the local pension office your passport with the residence permit, the child’s birth certificate and also a Civil Registry certificate confirming the birth of a child.
Some local authorities pay additional childbirth allowance.
Tallinn pays additional childbirth allowance if both parents have been registered as residents of Tallinn before the birth of the child (at least one parent has to be a resident for at least one year before the birth of the child). Mother has to have registered her pregnancy before the 12th week of pregnancy. The child has to be registered as a resident of Tallinn and has to be registered at the same address with the parents. Contact the city district municipality for more details.
Tartu pays additional childbirth allowance if the applicant has been registered as a resident of Tartu at least 6 months before the birth of the child and/or before the dates of next allowance payments. The allowance is paid in 3 parts, at birth of the child, at 1st birthday and at 2nd birthday. Applications can be submitted electronically as well as in city district departments.
It is possible to take a pregnancy vacation 70 days before the expected birth of the child and 70 days after the birth of the child. The pregnancy vacation lasts a total of 140 days. You should start the pregnancy vacation at least 30 days before the expected birth of the child. People who are employed receive a maternity benefit. Your gynecologist gives you a document certifying the expected birth of a child, which you must present to your employer or, in case you are self-employed, directly to the Estonian Health Insurance Board.
A father has a right to be granted 10 working days paid childcare leave during the 2 months before the date of birth designated by a doctor or within two months after the birth of the child.
The parental benefit is paid to the parent that stays at home with the child (mother of father). The parental benefit is paid after the end of the maternity benefit. Together the maternity benefit and the parental benefit are paid for a period of 575 days. For example if you start your pregnancy vacation on the 2nd of January 2011, the last day that the parental benefit will be paid for is the 29th of July 2012.
Non-working parents receive the parental benefit for 18 months from childbirth. Fathers have a right to
parental benefit starting from 70 days after the birth of the child.
The amount of the benefit depends on the parent’s income in the previous calendar year that is calculated on the basis of the social taxes paid in Estonia. Those who did not receive any taxable income in Estonia in the previous calendar year, receive the parental benefit according to the monthly rate of the benefit. For the year 2015 the monthly rate for parental benefit is 355 Euros. The maximum amount of parental benefit that is paid in one month as of 2015 is 2548.95 Euros (three times the average salary from the year before last). Taxes are deducted from the parental leave.
If you worked in the previous calendar year in Estonia as well as in another EU country, the time worked in these countries is considered as being the same as if the person had worked in Estonia, i.e. the social tax imposed in Estonia for the previous calendar year is considered paid even during periods of employment in other countries. Income actually earned in another country is not taken into account when calculating the amount of the benefit. If a parent worked in another EU country in the previous calendar year and received no income in Estonia, the parental benefit is designated at the minimum wage rate.
As the parental benefit is meant to replace the loss of income after the birth of the child, working during the period of receiving parental benefit is quite strictly regulated. It is possible to receive income from work at the time of the parental benefit in the amount of a minimum wage. If you receive more income than that, there will be deductions in the amount of benefit in that month.
Maternity benefit is paid out by the Estonian Health Insurance Board, the other benefits are paid by the Social Insurance Board.
Day care and schools
In Estonia there are possibilities to choose the educational institution for the child according to the language of instruction, the ownership and at the level of general education according to the curriculum followed in school.
The preschool education is acquired either in a preschool child care institution or at home, and its acquisition is the responsibility of the child’s parents or guardians.
There are four types of preschool child care institutions – day nurseries (for children 1 to 3 years of age), nursery schools (for children 1 to 7 years of age), special nursery schools, and nursery-primary schools. Most child care institutions have 1–3 groups of children and are mainly located in rural areas. Child care institutions in cities usually have up to 12 groups. However, the maximum number of groups in new child care institutions is smaller.
Local governments must provide the opportunity to attend child care institutions to all children between 1 and 7 years of age who live in their catchment areas if this is requested by their parents.
In general, children stay at home until the age of 1.5 years. Until then families receive the parental benefit and one of the parents can stay home. Most day-care centres do not accept children younger than 1 year.
In municipal day care centres the parents pay for the cost of meals as well as a small tuition fee. Although most children go to municipal day care centres, privately owned day care centres exist as well. Additionally, babysitters can be found with the help of friends, agencies or through newspaper advertisements. Municipal day care centres have queues, so you should register to them as soon as possible.
In Tallinn each day care centre has their own queue of applications for registering to the day care centre. In Tartu there is one centrally administered queue, applications for registering should be submitted to the Tartu City Government educational department.
The working language in childcare institutions is mainly Estonian, but in many places there are childcare institutions with Russian working language and private childcare institutions with English working language.
To attend the school is obligatory from the age of 7 to the age of 17 or until the acquisition of basic education. Municipal schools are prevalent; some schools belong to the state and a few are privately owned. At municipal and state-owned schools there is no tuition fee, and parents must only buy school supplies.
Possibilities for education in English can be found in the two biggest cities – Tallinn and Tartu, where the International School of Estonia, Tallinn International Kindergarten and Tartu International School run. The International School of Estonia accepts students up to grade 12 (17-18 years of age). Tartu International School educates students from age 6 to 15. There is also Tartu International Daycare which is governed by the same non-profit organisation. All these three are private institutions; thus, a tuition fee must be paid for the studies.
If your child needs tuition in English, but you prefer the municipal educational institution, you should contact as the first step the school you are interested in sending your child to. Miina Härma Gümnaasium in Tartu and Tallinn English College already has obtained the right for tuition on the basis of International Baccalaureate Organisation programmes, which give international education at the primary level (at the moment in 1st and 2nd grades) and for the gymnasium level (years 10-12).
In September 2013, Tallinn European School was open. The school follows the European School curriculum. The languages of instruction are English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Finnish and Estonian. The owner of the school is INNOVE Foundation and therefore the tuition fee must be paid, except for children whose parents work in the institutions/agencies of the European Union or are the employees of Tallinn European School.
You are welcome to contact the EURAXESS services centres for advice on suitable schools. If there are any problems with finding a school, EURAXESS centres will help you to contact the local government education office, who will advise you on possibilities for tuition of your child. As the number of English-speaking children in schools is growing, schools have become more experienced in meeting the needs of children, who are coming from abroad. Please consider the level of English of your child, tuition in languages other than Estonian, Russian and English can be difficult to organise.
Parents may choose a school for a child if there are vacant places in the selected school. A school is required to make sure educational opportunities for each child who resides in the school’s catchment area. Some schools do not have a catchment area and may accept pupils on the basis of admission tests or other requirements.
A child should be registered at a school by the 1st of June, for schools with admission tests earlier, and for that parents should submit to the school an application for admission together with a copy of the child’s personal identification document or birth certificate. In the event that your child has already attended school, documents certifying education obtained abroad or in another school in Estonia must also be presented.
Admission to upper secondary school takes place on the basis of admission tests and results from basic school. In most schools, admission tests to upper secondary level take place in March or April; the local education board can give you the exact dates.
The academic year usually lasts from 1st September until June of the following year. It consists of a study period, examination period, and holidays, which include one week in the autumn, two weeks at Christmas, one week in the spring and a long summer holiday. As of the academic year 2017/2018 there will be 5 holidays proposed by the state, adding a “ski-holiday to the end of February – beginning of March. Please note that the school owners (local governements) will keep the right to decide the holiday schedule differently, following certain rules. The greatest number of lessons per week varies from 20 lessons (grade 1) to 34 lessons (grade 9). At upper secondary school the number of lessons may be 35 or even more.
You can find more information about the pre-school, basic and secondary education on the website of Estonian Ministry of Education and Research.
Other pages to find more information on day care centres and schools
Going to school in Estonia (PDF, 759 KB)
Pere24 – website for searching babysitters, domestic helpers, tutors and more (choose the language from the menu)
If you wish to bring a pet with you to Estonia, you will need to have an international veterinary certificate or an animal passport issued in your home country before travelling to Estonia.
Many Estonians keep pets; cats and dogs are most popular. Local governments have made certain regulations about the keeping of pets In both Tallinn and Tartu, dogs must be registered. Dogs must be vaccinated before they are registered.
Since 1st of August 2006 dogs that are registered in Tallinn must have an electronic chip that can be obtained by a veterinarian. The price for the chip is lower for those dog-owners who have registered themselves as residents of Tallinn. The regulations in Tallinn state that a dog must be registered within 5 days after it has reached the age of 3 months, or within 5 days after its purchase.
The regulations in Tartu state that a dog must be registered within 10 days after it turns 4 month old or within 10 days after you acquire it.
Cats may be registered, but this is not obligatory. It is advisable to put a collar with the registration number and contact information of the owner on the cat.
Dogs are registered in Tartu at the following address: Küüni 5, Telephone: 736 1142 or 736 1139. Hours of operation: Monday 9-12 and 15-18, Tuesday 9-16, Wednesday to Friday 9-12 and 14-16,.
To register a dog in Tallinn, it must be marked by a veterinary first.