Statistics: More people born in Ukraine, India relocating to Estonia

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Arrivals at Tallinn Airport. Source: Sander Koit/ERR

More people have moved to Estonia in recent years than have left, and interest on the part of people born in Ukraine and in India towards relocating to Estonia is notable, Statistics Estonia said on Wednesday.

As Estonia's natural population growth has remained negative for a long time, it is the positive migration balance that helps to keep the country's population numbers stable, analysts Terje Trasberg and Kristjan Erik Loik wrote in a blog post (link in Estonian). Estonia's migration balance has been positive since 2015.

Last year, nearly 3,800 more people moved to Estonia than left the country. Compared to 2019, the number of immigrants decreased by nearly 2,000 and the number of emigrants by just under 400. The lower numbers of both immigrants and emigrants mainly were a result of the restrictions related to coronavirus.

The quality of the migration statistics of Statistics Estonia depends largely on whether or not a change of country of residence is recorded. The methodology used also allows for the identification of unregistered migration, but in such cases the information on both the country of origin and the country of destination is incomplete. Although the quality of the register data for identifying countries of origin has improved over the years, Statistics Estonia's analysis looked at the country of birth of migrants.

Inbound and outbound migration have followed a similar pattern for the past six years, with more people arriving in Estonia than leaving. The highest number of arrivals was registered in 2019 and the highest number of departures in 2016. The highest positive net migration was in 2018, when slightly over 7,000 more people arrived in Estonia than left.

However, the dynamics based on country of birth is more volatile than migration in absolute numbers in general, and over the last six years the picture has diversified considerably in terms of the countries of birth of migrants. The share of those born in Estonia among both inbound and outbound migrants has decreased.

In 2015-2019, the list of the main countries where immigrants came from remained unchanged: Estonia was followed by Russia, Ukraine and Finland. Last year, however, brought with it a change, as Ukraine overtook Russia to land in second place. There have been more changes in the second half of the top 10 during the six-year period, the analysts wrote.

Italy and Spain have dropped out of the top 10, being replaced by Belarus and India. The proportion of Latvian-born immigrants has also increased significantly.

Over the last six years, the center of gravity of the top 10 countries of birth of immigrants has shifted more and more from Western Europe to Eastern Europe. At the same time, since both absolute numbers and proportions outside the top five are quite small, the changes happening there become visible faster.

A number of differences can be found when comparing the proportions of countries of birth of immigrants and emigrants. First, about a third of immigrants were born in Estonia, but more than half of emigrants were people born in Estonia.

Second, it turns out that there is a certain balance in migration statistics regarding people born in Russia. In recent years, 1,700-1,900 people on average have arrived in Estonia and 1,000-1,100 have left. However, more people are arriving from Ukraine. Immigration from the country is second or third place depending on the year, but emigration to Ukraine occupies fourth or fifth place. 

In recent years, an average of 1,500 Ukrainian-born immigrants have arrived in Estonia. This number has been on an upward trend over the years, and last year it exceeded 2,000 for the first time. Emigration to Ukraine has risen in recent years from 200-300 to around 500 people.

For better assessment of migration dynamics and in order to avoid random fluctuations, one can take the average for the last six years and look at immigrants and emigrants in absolute terms by country of birth. It turns out that more people born in Estonia left during this period than arrived, meaning 0.9 immigrants per person who left. 

For the other main countries, however, the indicator was positive: 1.2 persons per person who left arrived from Germany, 1.6 from Finland, 1.7 from Russia, two from Latvia, and as many as four from Ukraine.

Since 2015, the proportion of people born in Estonia among immigrants has fallen from approximately half one-third. Nevertheless, migrants born in Estonia still hold first place. A similar trend can be observed in emigration, where the proportion of people born in Estonia fell from 68 percent in 2015 to 54 percent by 2020.

In absolute terms, migration figures vary from 5,000 to 9,000 per year, and whether there is a higher proportion of immigration or emigration depends on the year.

Statistics Estonia publishes migration statistics by country of destination, country of birth and nationality. Since 2015, the residency index has been used to calculate migration, which makes it possible to identify not only registered migration but also unregistered migration. Different registers are used to establish the countries of origin and countries of destination of migration, but not all countries can be identified by this method. 

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Editor: Helen Wright

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