This report analyses the values of Estonian society. Values are viewed here as the desirable goals which people strive to attain. Values guide the selection or evaluation of actions, policies, people, and events. We see them as a component of human capital – the characteristics of people that make a contribution to the development of a country, national economy and life satisfaction. The report provides an outline of the current state and recent changes of major Estonian values, in comparison to other European countries. Predictions about future value trends are also included.
The empirical data for the report were assembled from various sources. The three main data sets are World Value Survey, European Value Study 1990-2018, and European Social Survey 2004-2018. In terms of theoretical foundations, the report relies on various authors, theories and studies, most notably the value theories of Ronald Inglehart and Shalom Schwartz.
The empirical results include the following findings. Starting from the 1990s, the Estonian people have become happier, more trusting and more tolerant; they have attributed increasingly less value on work and more value on free time; achievement and success have become less important to them. All these trends are consistent with Inglehart’s theory of post-materialistic value shift, which is characteristic of nations that enjoy reasonably high levels of economic well-being. Thus, it would appear that Estonia is moving towards typical values of welldeveloped countries. However, there is still a way to go compared to many leading well-being countries in Europe. Estonia is still much lower on happiness and tolerance, and higher on the importance of material goals.
The report also includes an analysis of various values as determinants of the economic growth and life satisfaction. This analysis found that achievement values are the most consistent predictors of economic growth, indicating that achievement oriented people could boost the national economy. Life satisfaction was positively correlated with stimulation, selfenhancement and hedonistic values and negatively with security and conformism.
Authors: Mare Ainsaar, Kairi Kasearu, Marju Lauristin, Anu Realo, Ave Roots, Andu Rämmer, Tarmo Strenze, University of Tartu