Estonian population declined last year due to high number of deaths

Reopalu graveyard in Paide.
Reopalu graveyard in Paide. Source: Olev Kenk / ERR

Estonia's population decreased by more than 1,600 people over the last year which is mainly due to the "extraordinary" number of deaths. Net migration continued to be positive.

 According to preliminary data from Statistics Estonia, on January 1, 2022, the number of people living in Estonia was 1,328,439, which is 1,629 persons less than at the same time a year ago.

In 2021, there were 13,138 births and 18,445 deaths. Additionally, 12,280 persons immigrated to Estonia and 8,602 persons emigrated from Estonia.

Terje Trasberg, leading analyst at Statistics Estonia, said last year stands out for an exceptionally high number of deaths, as there were 5,307 more deaths than births registered in 2021.

"The high number of deaths combined with the number of births, which was similar to the level of recent years, meant that natural increase was negative. On the other hand, net migration was again positive – 3,678 more persons moved to Estonia than left for abroad. In the past, positive net migration has helped to boost the population figure, but in 2021 it was not enough and the population figure decreased," she said.

Population change, 2010-2021. Source: Statistics Estonia.

There were more than 2,500 deaths compared to 2021.

"In the last ten years, the number of deaths has ranged between 15,000 and 16,000, and the difference from year to year has been around 300. Thus, the number of deaths recorded last year was extraordinary. We can analyze the causes of death more thoroughly in spring, when we receive detailed data. But it is safe to assume that a large number of deaths from coronavirus and the hot summer were among the key factors," added Trasberg.

Last year, 13,138 children were born, according to preliminary data – this number is similar to the number of births in 2020. Since the data are preliminary, there may be revisions. 

According to the data on registered migration, in 2021, 12,280 persons immigrated to Estonia and 8,602 persons emigrated from Estonia. Compared to 2020, immigration increased by 1,890 persons and emigration by 1,282 persons.

"The preliminary data indicate that, following the pandemic-related restrictions in force in 2020, there was a rise in both immigration and emigration levels last year," noted Trasberg.

She added that migration statistics are the most difficult to estimate based on preliminary data, as Statistics Estonia will later supplement migration data with population register data and data on unregistered migration.

Population figure through decades 

A hundred years ago, in 1922, the population of Estonia was 1,097,733. The population figure was the highest in 1990, when it was 1,570,599.

Over the last 20 years, the population of Estonia has been roughly 1.3 million.

Population figure as of January 1, 1922-2022. Source: Statistics Estonia.

Census 2022

Estonia is currently carrying out its once-a-decade census. You can fill in your details here until January 22.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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