Census: Education levels in Estonia on the rise

Graduate being handed their diploma. Photo is illustrative.
Graduate being handed their diploma. Photo is illustrative. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The educational attainment, i.e. highest level of education completed, of the Estonian population remains on the rise, according to data collected in the 2021 Population and Housing Census. Statistics Estonia leading analyst Triinu Aug and analyst Mirjam Jesmin took a closer look at the figures in a post published Friday.

As of the end of 2021, 18 percent of the native Estonian-speaking population aged 25 and over had earned a basic education or less, 43 percent had completed secondary education or vocational education following secondary education, and 39 percent had earned a higher education, or secondary specialized education following secondary education.

The proportion of residents with a basic education was lower among native Russian speakers (11 percent), indicating that the share of persons with secondary or higher education in this group was a few percent higher than among the native Estonian-speaking population. Among native speakers of other languages, as many as 64 percent had completed higher education.

While the shares of people with basic and secondary education in the Estonian population have tended to decrease, the proportion of those who have completed higher education, meanwhile, has increased — by 13.2 percent among native Estonian speakers, 9.5 percent among native Russian speakers and 35.2 percent among the population with some other native language.

The much faster increase in the percentage of people to have completed higher education among residents with a native language other than Estonian or Russian suggests that it is highly educated foreigners that tend to migrate to Estonia today, the Statistics Estonia analysts noted.

Number of highly educated foreigners on rise

In most age groups, the share of people with tertiary education is highest among native speakers of languages other than Estonian or English.

Among both native Estonian- and native Russian-speakers, less than 1.5 percent of people in each census age group have a doctorate. The share of doctoral degree holders among native speakers of other languages, meanwhile, is higher across all age groups under 75, and particularly high in the 35-49 age group at more than 4 percent.

The highest percentages of young people with a master's or bachelor's degree are also found among those whose native language is something other than Estonian or Russian, with the highest proportion of master's degree holders in the 30-34 age group (36.1 percent) and highest proportion of bachelor's degree holders in the 25-29 age group (40.7 percent).

In contrast, just 15.3 percent of native Estonian speakers and 11.9 percent of native Russian speakers aged 30-34 have a master's degree, and those with a bachelor's degree account for less than a quarter each of native Estonian and native Russian speakers aged 25-29.

Overall, the educational attainment of Estonian residents with a native language other than Estonian or English has increased across all age groups since 2000, most notably among people aged 25-34 — increasing from 38 percent of this group having completed higher education in 2000 to 78.8 percent of this group in 2021.

"It appears that highly educated foreigners are beginning to see better career prospects in Estonia — there are more working-age foreigners with higher education residing in Estonia than ever before," the analysts wrote.

Click here to read more in Aug and Jesmin's blog post.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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