Estonian women are still among the most highly educated in Europe, new data from Statistics Estonia show.
Estonia has seen an increase in the proportion of people with higher education, while the share of persons with basic education has decreased, data from the 2021 Estonian census shows in comparison with the 2011 results.
As of 2021, the average proportion of 25–64-year-olds in the European Union with higher education is 33 percent, whereas census data reveal that in Estonia, 43 percent of the people in this age group have higher education.
This puts Estonia's population in 7th place in Europe in terms of the share of people with higher education.
Ireland has the highest proportion of people with higher education (52.7 percent), followed by Luxembourg (50.5 percent), Cyprus (47 percent), and Sweden (46.7 percent).
Lithuania is also in the top five in Europe, with 45.4 percent of the population aged 25–64 having higher education. Finland and Latvia, however, are slightly behind Estonia (43.2 percent) – persons with higher education in these countries account for 42.3 percent and 39 percent, respectively.
The lowest shares of people with higher education in the EU were recorded in Italy (20 percent) and Romania (18.8 percent).
The European average share of persons with higher education has risen a little faster than in Estonia. At the beginning of 2011, people with higher education accounted, on average, for 25.4 percent of the 25–64-year-old population in the European Union, compared with Estonia's 36.9 percent.
Estonia was ranked 5th in Europe at the time, outperformed only by Finland (39.3 percent), Ireland (39.2 percent), Cyprus (37.7 percent), and Luxembourg (37 percent).
On average in Europe, secondary education is the highest level of education attained for 46 percent of the population, compared with 45 percent in Estonia. On average, 21 percent of the population in Europe have basic education or less, whereas in Estonia the share is 12 percent.
Men prefer to vocational education, women academic education
In Estonia, women are much more likely to pursue higher education than men.
This has also been the case at the time of previous censuses. In the 25–64 age group, 53 education of women and 34 education of men have higher education. The corresponding figures in the previous census were 47 education and 30 education. However, nearly a third of men in Estonia have obtained a vocational qualification along with or in addition to secondary education.
When comparing Estonian men and women with their European Union counterparts, it is clear that women in Estonia are highly educated.
In 2021, an average of 36 percent of women aged 25–64 in the EU have attained higher education, compared with Estonia's 53 percent, the third highest.
Only Ireland (57 percent) and Sweden (54 percent) have more women with higher education than Estonia.
At the beginning of 2011, however, Estonian women ranked 2nd behind Finland: 45.2 percent of Estonian and 45.7 percent of Finnish women had higher education. The European average was 26.4 percent at the time.
Among men, the share of those with higher education in 2021 is slightly higher than the European average – in Estonia, the proportion of men with higher education in the 25–64 age group is 34 percent, whereas the European average is 31 percent.
At the beginning of 2011, 28 percent of men in Estonia had higher education, while the average in Europe was 24 percent. In 2011, Estonia was ranked 11th but has now dropped to 13th. Luxembourg has the highest proportion of men with higher education in the European Union. It has been in the lead for the past 10 years.
This article was first published on the Statistics Estonia blog.
Editor: Helen Wright