2021 census: Estonia's population more than 1.33 million

People at the Night Song Festival at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds on August 20, 2021.
People at the Night Song Festival at the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds on August 20, 2021. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Estonia's population has increased over the past ten years, standing at 1,331,824 permanent residents as of December 31, 2021, according to data from the 2021 national Population and Housing Census published on Wednesday.

As of December 31, 2021, there were 1,331,824 people living permanently in Estonia, which is 2.9 percent more than at the same point ten years prior. Men accounted for 47.6 percent of the population, up 1.2 percentage points since the previous census; women accounted for 52.4 percent. The average resident of Estonia is 42.2 years old, or 1.4 years older than the average resident ten years ago, Statistics Estonia said in a press release.

"The positive side of an aging population is that the number of people aged 80 and over has increased — in other words, people are living longer, and this is particularly noticeable for men," said Terje Trasberg, leading analyst at Statistics Estonia. "Compared with the time of the previous census, men are living on average 3 years and women 1.7 years longer. The problem here is the proportion of women of child-bearing age, which has declined, but this has been mitigated to some extent by the increase in the number of children born per woman as well as the increase in the number of children."

Over the past decade, Estonia has seen an increase in both the number of children (0-14 year olds) and the number of older persons (aged 65 and over). There are 217,792 children living permanently in Estonia, which is 9 percent more than ten years ago. The total number of older persons stood at 272,164, or 18.6 percent more than in the previous census. The number of working-age people, meanwhile, decreased by 2.7 percent to 841,868.

Of the Estonian population, 61.2 percent, or 815,003 people, live in urban settlements, up 4.2 percent compared with 2011. The number of people living in small urban settlements has increased by 12.8 percent in ten years. According to Trasberg, urban sprawl has been on the rise.

"The urge to move to bigger cities has stabilized or is coming to an end, but rural areas have not gained much from this — families with children in particular increasingly prefer small towns to big cities," she explained.

According to census data, compared with 2011, Estonia's population is much more diverse, and the number of people of ethnic Estonian nationality has increased as well.

"Over the past ten years, the number of ethnicities, countries of citizenship and native languages has increased, but the share of Estonians has remained almost unchanged," the analyst said. "The number of native speakers of Estonian has remained stable as well. The number of Estonian citizens has increased, while the number of Russian and Belarusian citizens has decreased."

According to the 2021 census, there are people of 211 ethnicities living in Estonia, which is 31 more than ten years ago. A total of 151 different citizenships are represented in Estonia as well, 33 more than in 2011. 69.4 percent of people living in Estonia are ethnically Estonian, up from 68.3 percent 20 years ago.

In ten years, the number of Estonians increased nearly 2 percent, the number of Russians decreased 3.4 percent, and the number of Belarusians fell by 7.7 percent. The number of Latvians, meanwhile, was up 117 percent, while the number of Ukrainians had increased 23 percent — as the moment of census was December 31, 2021, this statistic does not include war refugees who have arrived in Estonia in 2022.

A total of 243 native languages are spoken in Estonia, 86 more than in 2011 and more than twice as many as in 2000. The proportion of Estonian as a native language has nonetheless remained virtually unchanged in 20 years at approximately 68 percent.

Estonia's 2021 national Population and Housing Census was carried out by combining a register-based census with a sample survey. Register-based census data collection from some 30 centralized registers, including the Population Register and the National Register of Buildings, but also the Estonian Education Information System and the Employment Register, is ongoing, running from January through July 2022.

The results of the census published on June 1 are based on census data retrieved from registers. The data collected via survey is still being processed and analyzed; Statistics Estonia is scheduled to publish these results in November.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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