Statistics: Population decrease slowing but continuing

Projected population age structure 2020-2080.
Projected population age structure 2020-2080. Source: Statistics Estonia

Estonia's population is set to stand at 1.2 million in 2080, according to recent baseline scenario projections from Statistics Estonia. This represents a fall from the current figure of a little over 1.3 million, though at the same time a slowing of the general decrease in recent decades.

The main culprit is the sub-replacement fertility rate in Estonia, though factors such as lower levels of emigration and higher levels of immigration may also play a role.

Statistics Estonia's figures show an 11 percent fall in population over the next 60 years, or 145,200 people. The fall for the next 25 years is set at a little under 39,000, the agency says, though it also presents alternative possible scenarios to the baseline.

The baseline scenario decrease is predicted to be about five times smaller than previous projection s made on the basis of 2014 data, however.

The alteration is due to changes in migration trends – the previous projection was made at a time when Estonia was losing citizens to external migration, but this trend generally no longer holds, Statistics Estonia finds.

Statistics Estonia also provided contradictory figures stating that, due to immigration, the population would make small increases in the coming years, by about 1,500 per annum.

Fertility and life expectancy rising

Fertility rates are also likely to continue to rise, according to Statistics Estonia, to 1.86 children born per woman on average (according to the CIA World Factbook, the fertility rate for 2018 stood at 1.6 children born per woman).

Life expectancy is also expected to rise, from the current figure of 74 years for men and 82 years for women, to 83.5 years and 89.0 years for men and women respectively.

This also means the gender life expectancy lag, which dogs both Estonia and many other Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries, will diminish.

The age structure of Estonian demographics will also change.

Statistics Estonia data shows that down to 2060, the working-age population (aged 15–64) in the total population will decrease by 8.6 percentage points, after which there will be a small rise.

The proportion of persons aged 65 and over will increase gradually from 20 percent to 30 percent by 2060, Statistics Estonia finds.

In 20 years, the proportion of children (aged 0–14) in the population will decline from 16 percent to 14 percent, and will then rise slightly. As fertility is below the replacement level fertility (generally defined as around 2.1 live births per woman in developed countries), the natural increase will remain negative.

Regional population shifts

Regional differences in population rates were also examined by Statistics Estonia

To 2045, while the overall population decrease is projected at 2.7 percent, in four counties – Ida-Viru County, Järva County, Valga County and Jõgeva County saw a fall of around one third.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, those counties with the highest level of population decline also hve the most aging populations.

At the same time, the counties with the largest population centres, Harju county, including Tallinn, and Tartu County, both see a slight upward trend in population.

Population projections are made on the basis of current trends, which are extended into the future. Such extension is never uniform, due to unpredictable factors, with alternative scenarios for trends in even the most stable situations, Statistics Estonia says.

Four population projections were made by Statistics Estonia for 2080. The above covers the baseline scenario. In addition to this, there are scenarios with higher fertility and migration rates, lower fertility rates plus higher mortality rates and equal migration, andwhere fertility has increased to replacement level fertility by the end of the period.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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