Minister of Population Affairs Riina Solman (Isamaa) has expressed dismay over recent statistics which suggest a fall in the rate of natural population growth for 2020.
Final statistics for birth and deaths in the last month of 2020 are not yet known, but preliminary data suggests a fall, BNS reports, though the population as a whole saw a small rise, largely due to immigration and returning Estonians.
Riina Solman said: "This is definitely not good news, but it will be an inevitability for many years to come, and we have taken that into account. However, it can be concluded that population growth is still driven by immigration. How many families that had previously left here were brought back by the year with restrictions on movement and how many foreigners found Estonia as their place of residence during this year of many changes will become clear later."
Overall population grew by 2,043 in 2020
Estonia's population grew by 2,043 people during 2020, BNS reports, even though the natural growth rate saw a decline, as noted.
"Population change is affected by births, deaths and changes of residence," Riina Solman added, noting that sometimes even administrative details have an effect on the numbers.
"Changes of residence take place both within Estonia and with other countries. However, it should not be forgotten that some of the changes are due to improved data quality. Some people may have been added because they filled in their previously missing residence data in the register."
Minister: Please ensure your population registry data is up-to-date
Solman urged the public to ensure their population registry data is up-to-date.
She said: "Over the year, we repeatedly called on people to supplement their data in the population register. It is important to know all this when analyzing population changes."
More detailed data is required to get a clearer picture of demographic changes last year, she added, with the pandemic playing a role too.
"It has been hypothesized that people have moved to rural areas more because of the coronavirus. Preliminary summary data cannot confirm this, but it cannot be refuted either. For example, the growth in Harju County is slower than before. We look forward to receiving more detailed information."
The Health Board's (Tervisamet) daily coronavirus case figures bear out the claim too. Most days, several new cases over a 24-hour period have no place of residence associated with the individual in question. This can also be the case if the individuals contracting COVID-19 are foreign nationals.
Harju and Tartu counties saw largest increases, Ida-Viru County population fell
The population grew mainly in Estonia's two most populous counties, Harju County (by 5,360) and Tartu County (by 1,100) in 2020, and also slightly on the islands of Hiiumaa and Saaremaa, though by less than 100 in each case.
Tallinn's population grew by about 1,500 in 2020, BNS reports.
Population growth in Harju County has also risen in the Tallinn commuter belt, with Rae rural municipality seeing a five percent rise. A similar process has been seen in Kambja rural municipality, south of Tartu city.
On the other hand, the Maardu municipality, just to the east of Tallinn, and also Loksa municipality about 60 km to the east, saw a fall in population. Tartu city itself also saw a fall, BNS reports.
The remaining counties see an older population than the national average, in the case of Ida-Viru County partly because the county as a whole saw a population fall of almost 2,000 people, particularly in three principal cities, Narva, Kohtla-Järve and Sillamäe, and often due to younger people moving away.
Võru, Lääne-Viru, Järva and Jõgeva counties saw falls in the population in the 300-500 range, making up around a 1 percent population fall.
State agency Statistics Estonia is due to publish more detailed population and migration data in the spring, including migration not covered in the population registry, BNS reports.
Editor: Andrew Whyte