Estonia's population grew by 2 percent on year to January 1, 2023, to a total of 1,357,739, according to state agency Statistics Estonia. While this growth was mostly fuelled by immigration, including of those fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine, migration statistics over the past year will in any case be revised in due course, the agency added.
The increase means there were a total of 25,943 more people in Estonia at the start of this year, than there were at the start of 2022.
Statistics Estonia says 11,588 births and 17,245 deaths were registered in 2022, while 42,022 persons immigrated into Estonia. Three-quarters of these people (31,594) were from Ukraine, while 10,422 people emigrated from Estonia over the same time period.
2022 was also characterized by a record low birth-rate, Statistics Estonia leading analyst Terje Trasberg noted, saying: "The number of deaths remained high, although it was slightly smaller than in 2021.
"However, the number of births in 2022 was at an all-time low, with just 11,588 births registered last year. The registered number of births has never been under 12,000 in Estonia, according to available population statistics dating back to 1919," Trasberg went on.
There had been a negative natural increase in the Estonian population in 2021 (-5,317) and in 2022 (-5,657), Statistics Estonia says.
Preliminary migration statistics influenced by refugee figures
Data on registered migration (derived from the Population Register) states that net migration was positive, with 31,600 more persons arriving in Estonia, than leaving it (see above).
Both registered immigration and net migration were several times the average for recent years as a result of immigration from Ukraine, the agency adds.
Emigration also rose: There were 1,820 emigrants in 2022 than in the previous year, the agency says.
The largest number of those who immigrated into Estonia and stayed had Ukrainian citizenship (31,594).
While Ukrainians since 2018 have made up the largest component of immigrants by nationality, 2022's number represented a significant advance on the figures for 2020 (2,374) and 2021 (3,047).
Trasberg added that while immigration figures also include returning Estonian nationals, these do not make up a particularly large proportion of the total, particularly now.
She said: "There were 3,363 Estonian citizens returning to Estonia in 2022 – but Estonians often do not register their movement; in any case the share of Estonian citizens among registered migrants is small.
"In 2022, there were 1,446 immigrants with Russian citizenship," Trasberg continued.
Another significant piece of data is the fact that women made up a greater share of immigrant totals – at around 60 percent – than men, for the first time this century.
Previously, the figure had been 60 percent men, among immigrants.
Again, arrivals from Ukraine would have influenced this – 64 percent of those fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine are women, while Ukraine itself puts restrictions on men of most age groups from leaving the country.
Statistics Estonia: Migration statistics to be revised
The above figures are not the final statement, however, Trasberg said.
"Unlike preliminary birth and death statistics, the preliminary statistics on migration are likely to be significantly revised, since the preliminary figures are based on the data of the Population Register where people often fail to change their data as they emigrate or immigrate."
"Statistics Estonia will supplement migration data with data on unregistered migration, and the revised data will be released in May," Trasberg added.
Death rate higher than before pandemic
He death rate, which grew sharply in 2021 (to 18,587), decreased slightly in 2022 (to 17,245), but there were still almost 1,500 deaths more last year than in the pre-pandemic years (ie. before 2020), the agency adds.
While 2010-2019, the average number of deaths in Estonia stood at 15,545 per year,in the years 2020-2022 the average number of deaths had risen to 17,214 per year.
The impact of Covid and an ageing population are the main factors here, the agency says.
Number of births at all-time low
11,588 births were registered in Estonia 2022, the lowest figure since 1919, when the fledgling Republic of Estonia first published comparable statistics.
The number of births has been in decline since the restoration of independence in 1991, excluding a slight uptick at the end of 2000s.
The main factors here are that women giving birth now were often themselves born at a time of lower birth rates – for instance in the late 1990s to early 2000s (around 12,500 live births per year), while correlations have been observed, not only in Estonia but also in Latvia and other states, between the Covid pandemic and lower birth rates (notwithstanding claims made during the earlier lockdown periods that restrictions had led to conditions more conducive to procreation-ed.).
"The women giving birth now were born in the 1990s, when the number of births was low. Therefore, in addition to other reasons, the low number of births is also due to the fact that the current young generation is smaller than the previous one," Trasberg said.
The above data is based on the Population Register, which covers those who have a registered residence in Estonia. As a result, Ukrainian refugees and others who are staying in Estonia but have not yet registered a place of residence are not included in the gigures.
The Police and Border Guard Board also publishes data on people applying for temporary protection, which would include some Russian citizens as well as Ukrainians; these individuals would need to have had a registered residence as of January 1, 2023 also, in order to be included.
The Social Insurance Board (SKA) also publishes data on war refugees. SKA states that over 45 percent of war refugees entering Estonia do not settle here, instead transiting through to other countries.
Editor: Andrew Whyte