As of the end of 2021, 58 percent of the Estonian population was employed, indicating an increase of 6 percentage points compared with ten years prior, according to the results of the 2021 Population and Housing Census. This increase was attributable primarily to people of retirement age, with the unemployed and students contributing somewhat as well.
"The reason for the increase in the employment rate is that young people born during the baby boom of the re-independence era have reached the primary working age," Terje Trasberg, leading analyst at Statistics Estonia, said according to a press release.
"Also, despite the aging of the population, the share of people living on pensions has fallen," she continued. "This has been affected by a variety of factors, such as the increase in the retirement age, older people's improved health and employers' favorable attitude toward older employees, but also by labor shortages, for example in education."
It is, in fact, the field of education that employs the largest share of people of retirement age, Trasberg added.
Recent census data revealed a steady increase compared with previous censuses in the share of wages or salaries as the primary source of subsistence.
In 2000, wages were the primary source of subsistence for 46 percent of people over the age of 15, for 48 percent in 2011, and for 54 percent in 2021. The share of individuals being supported by other people has decreased at a similar pace, from 15 percent in 2000 to 12 percent in 2011 and 7 percent in 2021.
The share of pensions as the primary source of subsistence has likewise declined over the past decade, despite an increase in the number of older people; 5 percent of people aged 65 and over lived on a wage or salary in 2011, increasing to 10 percent in 2021.
Women's longer life expectancy impacting employment stats
Across all people aged 15 and over, the share of those employed is 4 percentage points higher for men than for women — 60 percent and 56 percent, respectively — but according to Statistics Estonia, this is because women have a longer life expectancy, meaning that among women, there are more people of retirement age who are no longer working.
Between the ages of 15-64, there are more women in employment (73 percent) than men (68 percent), with the largest difference recorded in the 50-64 age group (78 and 70 percent, respectively).
According to the 2021 census, there were 642,391 employed people in Estonia.
The majority of those employed, or 96 percent, were salaried employees at their primary place of work; 4 percent were entrepreneurs. There were more entrepreneurs among employed men than women, accounting for 6 percent of all employed men. Among women, meanwhile, 97 percent were salaried employees, with entrepreneurship recorded as the primary activity for 3 percent.
Estonia's labor market also continues to be characterized by gender segregation by branch of economic activity as well as by occupation. 4.1 percent of men are employed in the primary sector — agriculture, hunting, forestry, fishing — compared with just 1.7 percent of women; 37.7 percent of men and 16 percent of women work in the industrial sector. The service sector, meanwhile, employs 58.2 percent of men and as many as 82.3 percent of women.
Women are in the majority in social work (86 percent), education (83 percent) and human health (75 percent) activities. Men, meanwhile, predominate in construction (89 percent) and mining and quarrying (85 percent). The difference between men's and women's jobs is also more sharply divided in rural areas than in cities and towns.
Less than half of population in Ida-Viru, Valga counties employed
As expected, the highest employment rates were recorded in Harju County (62 percent) and Tartu County (60 percent), where the majority of both jobs and students preparing to enter the labor market are located. The share of people in employment was highest in the municipalities surrounding Tallinn and Tartu, reaching 70 percent.
The lowest employment rates as of the end of 2021, meanwhile, were seen in Ida-Viru County (48 percent) and Valga County (50 percent), as well as in other rural regions with older populations and higher shares of native Russian speakers.
Editor: Aili Vahtla