Census: Population changes least in Ida-Viru County, most in Lääne County

Estonian people. The Small Islands Song Festival on Abruka.
Estonian people. The Small Islands Song Festival on Abruka. Source: Margus Muld/ERR

Data from the 2021 census shows that 84 percent of Estonia's current population also lived in the country in 2011. The proportion of people moving to Estonia from abroad has risen significantly, while the main trend in internal migration since 2011 has been an increase in those relocating to Harju County.

Terje Trasberg, leading analyst at Statistics Estonia, explained that the data shows not only the number of people who have moved to Estonia from abroad, but also how many have relocated from one location to another within the country.

According to Statistics Estonia, 1.12 million people, or 82.4 percent of those living in Estonia in 2021, participated in the censuses of both 2011 and 2021.

A further 1.5 percent of the current population is also known to have lived in Estonia at the time of the 2011 census but chose not to participate. This means 83.9 percent of Estonia's current population were also living in the country in 2011. Of the remaining section of the current population, 5.2 percent resided abroad at the time of the previous census, 10.6 percent were not yet born, while no information is available for the final 0.4 percent.

Three out of four people still reside in the same county as ten years ago, and two thirds live in the same municipality.

The data reveals, that the population of Ida-Viru County has changed the least, with 83 percent of current residents having also lived in the same county at the time of the previous census. In contrast, Lääne County's population has undergone the greatest change, with just 73 percent of its present-day residents living in the same county in 2011.

On a municipal level, only 45 percent of those now living in Rae rural municipality also lived there ten years ago, which is the lowest proportion throughout Estonia. In Narva on the other hand, 82 percent of those currently living in the eastern border city resided there in 2011 too.

"In general, the trend is clear – the populations of cities in Ida-Viru County are the most stable," said Trasberg. "This primarily means, that the number of new people coming in, as a result of both births and immigration, is low. The population has mainly changed in municipalities which have high immigration and young populations, such as the rural municipalities around Tallinn and Tartu," she explained.

Fewer internal migrants, arrivals from abroad increase

According to the results of the 2021 population census, 93,400 people, or 7 percent of the current population, resided in a different county ten years previously. This figure is lower than in 2011, when 112,500 people (8.7 percent) had moved from one county to another between then and the previous census in 2000.

In the ten years since 2011, 36,400 people relocated to Harju County from elsewhere in Estonia, while 23,800 left Harju County for other parts of the country. Ida-Viru County's population fell the most as a result of internal migration, with the number of people leaving for other counties 4,900 higher than those arriving. 80 percent of those internal migrants who left Ida-Viru County, moved to Harju County.

At the time of the previous census, 5.2 percent of the current population, or 68,600 people, resided abroad, 15,200, or 22 percent of whom, were ethnic Estonians. In 2011, the number of people who were living abroad during the previous census (in 2000) was 11,300, or 0.9 percent of the population at the time. "The number and proportion of arrivals from abroad has thus multiplied between these two periods," said Trasberg.

"If we also count those who took part in the last census but have lived abroad in the intervening period, 107,500 people have been involved in international migration since the 2011 census. 41,600 or 39 percent of them were ethnic Estonians. In total, there are 285,000 people living in Estonia, who have, at some point in their lives, resided abroad," explained Trasberg.

The latest census data shows, that the majority of those migrating to Estonia come from other European countries. Half are Estonian citizens, while more than half have come from Finland, with additional arrivals from the UK and Russia.

When it comes to citizens of other countries, the highest proportion in Estonia are from Ukraine (10.8 percent) and Russia (9.3 percent). However, as the data was collected in December 2021, this does not account for the arrival of Ukrainian refugees following Russia's invasion this February.

When compared with data from previous censuses, the percentage of migrants and foreign citizens in Estonia has increased.

"Although individually they are few in number, the combined proportion of (people of) other nationalities – which in this case is everyone apart from Estonians, Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Finns – is 17 percent (as opposed to 11 percent previously). The number of different nationalities living in Estonia has grown from 180 to 211, so the overall picture is much more diverse than before," said Trasberg.

Place of residence of Estonia's population at the time of the previous census. Source: Statistics Estonia

Most of those migrating to Estonia over the last ten years from abroad have moved to cities, with 48 percent now living in Tallinn, which is home to a third of the country's population. As many as 60 percent of non-Estonian nationals who have relocated to Estonia live in the capital. According to the census, 60 percent of international migrants are men and 40 percent women.

120,000 people have secondary place of residence

In addition to their primary place residence, 9 percent of Estonia's population also have a secondary residence. A secondary residence is defined as a dwelling, which a person, or family member was connected to in the previous year, but did not live permanently.

Of the 120,000 people who have secondary residences, 93,000 are in Estonia and the remaining 27,000 are abroad.

The most common foreign country for Estonians to have a second place of residence is Finland, accounting for more than half of the 27,000.

As for those who have secondary residences in Estonia, approximately fifty percent are in the same county as their primary residences, with the other half elsewhere in the country.

According to the census, it is more common for men than women to have a secondary place of residence, with figures of 10 percent and 8 percent, respectively. 2.9 percent of men and 1.2 percent of women surveyed have a secondary place of residence in a foreign country.

More details about the migration data collected during the 2021 population census, can be found here.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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