Demographics of Estonia
The demographics of Estonia in the twenty-first century result from historical trends over more than a thousand years, as with most European countries, but have been disproportionately influenced by events in the last half of the twentieth century. The rise and fall of the Soviet Union, including the annexation and eventual independence of Estonia, has had a major effect on Estonia's ethnic makeup and educational achievement.
Languages spoken in Estonia largely reflect the ethnic groups composing the country, and thus have changed with historical trends affecting the ethnic makeup of the country. Religion plays a small part in the lives of most Estonians, largely as a result of the Soviet occupation from 1944–1991.
Overall, the quality-of-life indices for Estonia indicate a modern industrial state, with one major exception: the population of Estonia is shrinking. While other European countries, like Estonia, have a birthrate at less than replacement levels, Estonia lacks the immigration found, for example, in Germany. As such, the population is on a slow downward trend, except for a brief pause in 2010. As of 2016, immigration has exceeded emigration for the first time in 25 years, making the overall population grow.
|Demographics of Estonia|
|GDP (PPP) per capita||40th||$28,781|
|Unemployment rate||↓ 67th||5.9%|
|CO2 emissions||22nd||11.9 t†|
|Electricity consumption||97th||7.4 TWh|
|Human Development Index||30th||0.861|
|Political freedom||1st (equal)*||1|
|Beer consumption||4th||102.4 L†|
|Suicide Rate||38th|| ♂ 24.9†‡|
Estonians have strong ties to the Nordic countries and Germany stemming from the strong cultural and religious influences gained over centuries during Danish, German and Swedish rule and settlement. This highly literate society places strong emphasis upon education, which is free and compulsory until age 16.
In the twentieth century, Estonia's ethnic makeup was altered radically by policies implemented by the Soviet government. Large numbers of ethnic Russians were incentivized to move into the non-Russian republics, including Estonia. The population was further altered by Joseph Stalin's mass deportations and executions while many people simply left as a result of World War II.
According to data from Statistics Estonia, the population of Estonia is shrinking. While there are other European countries like Estonia with a birthrate that is below replacement levels, Estonia lacks immigration to compensate for the negative natural growth. In fact, the number of emigrants is larger than the number of immigrants. As such, the population is on a slow downward trend. The population increased from 1,351,640 in January 1970 to 1,570,599 in January 1990. Since 1990, Estonia lost about 15% of its population (230,000 people). The population decreased to 1,294,455 in December 2011, which is even lower than the number of people that lived in Estonia in 1970.
- 1,294,455 (2011 Population Count and Housing Census)
- 1,370,052 (2000 Population Count and Housing Census)
Although there is a downward population curve, explained by a larger death than birth rate and a larger number of emigrants than immigrants, the line graph of the natural population increase shows the rate of population decrease was slowly diminishing.
In 2015 the country experienced population growth. The population mainly increased as a result of net immigration of European Union citizens. Citizens of Russia and Ukraine made up the bulk of non-EU immigration. The increase was detected through methodological changes in data collection. Initially a population decrease had been reported.
Between 1970 and 1990 the age structure of Estonia was rather stable with around 22% of the population in the age group 0–14 years, 66% between 15 and 65, while 12% were 65 years or older. Due to the low birth rates after 1990, the proportion of the population 0–14 years of age dropped to 15% in 2009, while the proportion of 65 years or older gradually increased to 17% in 2009. The proportion of the age group 15–64 also slightly increased to 68% in 2009.
Births and deaths
From 1947–1989 the number of births was higher than the number of deaths, but from 1990 onwards the number of deaths outnumbered the number of births. The crude birth rate of 2011 was 10.96 (14,679 births) and the crude death rate of 2011 was 11.38 (15,244 deaths), making the rate of natural increase −0.42 (−565). For more detailed historic data, see the table of birth and death rates below.
Total fertility rate
Between 1970 and 1990, the total fertility rate (TFR) was little over 2 children born per woman. A fast decrease of the TFR occurred after independence. In 1998 the lowest rate was recorded: 1.28 children born per women. The TFR slightly recovered in the subsequent years. The TFR was 1.66 in 2008 and 1.52 in 2011.
Infant mortality rate
The infant mortality rate in Estonia has decreased considerably during the past decades. In 1970 the rate was 17.7 per 1,000 live births. The rate decreased to 17.1 in 1980, 12.3 in 1990 and 8.4 in 2000. The lowest infant mortality rate was recorded in 2011: 2.6.
Life expectancy at birth
Life expectancy in Estonia is lower than in most Western European countries. During the Soviet era life expectancy in males was between 64 and 66 years and in females between 73 and 75 years. After the independence, life expectancy decreased for a number of years. In 1994, the lowest life expectancy was recorded: 60.5 years in males and 72.8 in females. After 1994, life expectancy gradually increased to reach 68.3 years in males and 79.2 in females in 2012.
As the cumulative negative natural growth was about 82,000 during 1991-2010, the remainder of the population decline of Estonia since 1990 (230,000 people in total) was caused by emigration (150,000 people or about 10% of the population of Estonia in 1990). Mainly ethnic Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians emigrated. Consequently, the proportion of these ethnic groups decreased as can be seen in the results of the 2000 census (see below). Data from 2000–2009 also shows that the number of emigrants is larger than the number of immigrants, but on a much lower lever than in the 1990s.
Today, Estonia is an ethnically fairly diverse country, ranking 97th out of 239 countries and territories in 2001 study by Kok Kheng Yeoh. In 2008, thirteen of Estonia's fifteen counties were over 80% ethnic Estonian. The counties with the highest percentage Estonians are Hiiu County (98.4%) and Saare County (98.3%). However, in Harju County (which includes the national capital, Tallinn) and Ida-Viru County, ethnic Estonians make up only 59.6% (55.0% in Tallinn) and 19.7% of the population, respectively. In those two counties, Russians account for 32.4% (36.4% in Tallinn) and 71.2% of the population, respectively. In the nation as a whole, Russians make up 24.8% of the total population.
After gaining independence following World War I a population census was held in 1922 and 1934. At that time Estonians were still the predominant ethnic group, while all others constituted 12% of the population of Estonia.
|Others (primarily Latvians, Germans, Swedes) (including European descent Americans, Canadians, Australians, Afrikaners)||1.9||22,932|
|African (Including African Americans)||0.002||31|
|Other background Oceania/South Asian/South American/Middle Eastern/Caucasus Region||0.8||10,912|
|census 19221||census 19341||census 19592||census 19703||census 19794||census 19895||census 20006||census 2011||statistics 2016|
Other nationalities in Estonia (2013)
|Chuvash people||373||0.02%||Chechens||51||0.01%||Yakuts||15||0.01%||Chileans||7||0.01%||Grenadian Trinbagonian||2||0.01%||Nicaraguans||1||0.01%|
|Karelians||363||0.01%||Australians||35||0.01%||African Americans||14||0.01%||Assyrians||6||0.01%||Amhara||1||0.01%||Puerto Ricans||1||0.01%|
As a result of the aforementioned Soviet policies, the share of ethnic Estonians in the population resident within currently defined boundaries of Estonia dropped to 61.5% in 1989, compared to 88% in 1934. But in the decade following the reconstitution of independence, large scale emigration by ethnic Russians, as well as ethnic groups of other former Soviet countries, and the removal of the Russian military bases in 1994 caused the proportion of ethnic Estonians in Estonia to increase from 61.5% in 1989 to 68.7% in 2008. In the same period the proportion of ethnic Russians decreased from 30.0% to 25.6%, the proportion of ethnic Ukrainians decreased from 3.1% to 2.1%, and the proportion of ethnic Belarusians decreased from 1.8% to 1.2%.
As of 2008, the largest ethnic groups in Estonia are Estonians (68.7%), Russians (25.6%), Ukrainians (2.1%), Belarusians (1.2%), and Finns (0.8%). These five groups made up 98.4% of Estonia's population.
Many languages are spoken in Estonia, including Estonian (official), Russian, Ukrainian, English, Finnish, German and others. According to the census of 2000, 109 languages were spoken natively in Estonia. By 2011, the number of languages spoken natively had increased to 157, mainly due to new immigrants. However, most of these languages were used only between relatives or compatriots, while only 30 languages were spoken on a daily basis in families.
Estonian and Finnish are closely related, belonging to the same Finnic branch of the Uralic language family. Nevertheless, the two languages are not mutually intelligible, although educated native speakers can read the other language with a greater or lesser degree of understanding. Estonian and Finnish are only distantly related to the Hungarian language.
Written with the Latin alphabet, Estonian is the language of the Estonian people and the official language of the country. One-third of the standard vocabulary is derived from adding suffixes to root words. The oldest known examples of written Estonian originate in 13th century chronicles. During the Soviet era, the Russian language was imposed in parallel to, and often instead of, Estonian in official use.
|Language||2000 census||2011 census|
Population of Estonia by second language
|Language||2000 census||2011 census|
According to the most recent Eurobarometer Poll 2010, 18% of Estonian citizens responded that "they believe there is a God", whereas 50% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force" and 29% that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, god, or life force". This, according to the survey, would have made Estonians the most non-religious people in the then 25-member European Union. A survey conducted in 2006–2008 by Gallup showed that 14% of Estonians answered positively to the question: "Is religion an important part of your daily life?", which was the lowest among 143 countries polled.
Less than a third of the population define themselves as believers; of those, the majority are Lutheran, whereas the Russian minority is Eastern Orthodox. Ancient equinoctial traditions (like St John's Day) are held in high regard. In 2000, according to the census, 29.2% of the population considered themselves to be related to any religion, thereof:
- 13.6% Lutheran Christians
- 12.8% Orthodox Christians
- 6,009 Baptists
- 5,745 Roman Catholics
- 4,254 Jehovah's Witnesses
- 2,648 Pentecostals
- 2,515 Old Believers
- 1,561 Adventists
- 1,455 Methodists
- 1,387 Muslims
- 5,008 followers of other religions
There are also a number of smaller Protestant, Jewish, and Buddhist groups. The organisation Maavalla Koda (Taaraism) unites adherents of animist traditional religions. The Russian neopagan organisation "Vene Rahvausu Kogudus Eestis" is registered in Tartu.
Vital statistics for the Governorate of Estonia
|Average population (x 1000)||Live births||Deaths||Natural change||Crude birth rate (per 1000)||Crude death rate (per 1000)||Natural change (per 1000)|
|1900||428||12 487||8 227||4 260||29.2||19.2||10.0|
|1901||430||12 703||8 428||4 275||29.5||19.6||9.9|
|1902||434||13 101||7 724||5 377||30.2||17.8||12.4|
|1903||440||12 704||8 004||4 700||28.9||18.2||10.7|
|1904||446||12 753||8 279||4 474||28.6||18.6||10.0|
|1905||449||11 991||9 694||2 297||26.7||21.6||5.1|
|1906||452||12 417||8 842||3 575||27.4||19.5||7.9|
|1907||455||12 304||8 730||3 574||27.0||19.2||7.9|
|1908||459||11 861||8 495||3 366||25.8||18.5||7.3|
|1909||464||11 970||8 297||3 673||25.8||17.9||7.9|
|1910||466||12 193||8 204||3 989||26.2||17.6||8.6|
|1911||472||11 749||8 976||2 773||24.9||19.0||5.9|
|1912||480||11 900||8 431||3 469||24.8||17.6||7.2|
|1913||491||11 653||9 089||2 564||23.7||18.5||5.2|
|1914||506||11 854||9 212||2 642||23.4||18.2||5.2|
- Source: Statistics Estonia
|Average population (x 1000)||Live births||Deaths||Natural change||Crude birth rate (per 1000)||Crude death rate (per 1000)||Natural change (per 1000)||Total fertility rate||Infant mortality rate|
1 Population figures from 2000 on were revised based on the 2011 Estonian census and various registers.
- Number of births from January–October 2015 = 11,775
- Number of births from January–October 2016 = 11,849
- Number of deaths from January–October 2015 = 12,872
- Number of deaths from January–October 2016 = 12,693
- Natural growth from January–October 2015 = -1,097
- Natural growth from January–October 2016 = -844
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