International Standards for Social Security and Their Fulfilment in Estonia: Changes in Pension and Health Insurance and Their Constitutionality

Author:Gaabriel Tavits
Position:Docent of Labour and Social Welfare Law, University of Tartu

1. The right to social security as a fundamental right - 2. International legal instruments in the field of social security that are binding on Estonia - 3. Changes in pension insurance - 3.1. Raising the retirement age - 3.2. Enforcing additional pension schemes - 4. The right to health protection and health insurance - 4.1. Payment of benefits in cases of temporary incapacity for work - 4.2.... (see full summary)

Gaabriel Tavits
Docent of Labour and Social Welfare Law
University of Tartu
International Standards for
Social Security and Their
Ful lment in Estonia:
Changes in Pension and Health Insurance
and Their Constitutionality
Two important issues concerning the backing of social security schemes have emerged in Estonia. A recently
published study arrived at the conclusion that the Estonian health insurance nancing system is not sus-
tainable and proper health care remains unavailable to individuals in the long run.*1 Secondly, the parlia-
ment of the Republic of Estonia—the Riigikogu—had to decide on raising the retirement age*2; also subject
to discussion has been the abolition of special pensions, depriving a certain group of people of their legal
right to receive social bene ts.*3 The future of two important social security schemes has, therefore, been
under discussion. Both social security schemes are, among other things, closely related to the economic
situation of the country, but also to international requirements by which the Republic of Estonia is bound.
This article analyses the compliance of the amendments made in Estonian health insurance and pen-
sion insurance with international requirements and the principles set forth in the Constitution.
1. The right to social security as a fundamental right
The right to social security has been recognised as one of the fundamental rights. In Estonia, the rights
related to social security are regulated by §28 of the Constitution.*4 Pursuant to subsection 2 of that sec-
tion, a person has the right to state assistance in the event of old age, incapacity for work, loss of someone
on whom he depends, and need. With that provision, the Estonian state has assumed the responsibility to
ensure the payment of social bene ts necessary for an individual in the above-mentioned circumstances.
1 See analysis Responding to the challenge of nancial sustainability in Estonia’s health system. WHO 2010. Available at les/E93542.pdf (9.10.2011).
2 Riikliku pensionikindlustuse seaduse muutmise ja sellega seonduvalt teiste seaduste muutmise seadus (Act Amending the
State Pension Insurance Act and Other Related Acts), §7 (1). – RT I 2010, 18, 97 (in Estonian).
3 See, e.g., ‘Valitsus püüab eripensione kaotada järk järgult’ (Government Tries to Abolish Special Pensions Gradually). – Pos-
timees, 18.5.2010. Available at (in Estonian); ‘Valitsus tahab eripensionid kaotada’ (Government
Set to Abolish Special Pensions). –, 28.4.2011. Available at (in Estonian).
4 Eesti Vabariigi põhiseadus. – RT 1992, 26, 349; RT I 2007, 33, 210 (in Estonian).

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