Estonian women still among the most highly educated in Europe
During the population and housing census, information on the highest level of education attained by inhabitants of Estonia was also gathered and data were compared with that of other countries. Estonia has seen an increase in the proportion of people with higher education, while the share of persons with basic education has decreased. Estonian women are still among the most highly educated in Europe, and overall Estonia ranks 7th in terms of the share of people with higher education.
As of 2021, the average proportion of 25–64-year-olds in the European Union with higher education is 33%, whereas census data reveal that in Estonia, 43% of the people in this age group have higher education. This puts Estonia’s population in 7th place in Europe in terms of the share of people with higher education.
Ireland has the highest proportion of people with higher education (52.7%), followed by Luxembourg (50.5%), Cyprus (47%), and Sweden (46.7%). Lithuania is also in the top five in Europe, with 45.4% of the population aged 25–64 having higher education. Finland and Latvia, however, are slightly behind Estonia (43.2%) – persons with higher education in these countries account for 42.3% and 39%, respectively. The lowest shares of people with higher education in the EU were recorded in Italy (20%) and Romania (18.8%).
The European average share of persons with higher education has risen a bit faster than that of Estonia. At the beginning of 2011, people with higher education accounted, on average, for 25.4% of the 25–64-year-old population in the European Union, compared with Estonia’s 36.9%. Estonia was ranked 5th in Europe at the time, outperformed only by Finland (39.3%), Ireland (39.2%), Cyprus (37.7%), and Luxembourg (37%).
On average in Europe, secondary education is the highest level of education attained for 46% of the population, compared with 45% in Estonia. On average, 21% of the population in Europe have basic education or less, whereas in Estonia the share is 12%.
Men prefer to obtain vocational, women academic education
In Estonia, women are much more likely to pursue higher education than men. This has also been the case at the time of previous censuses. In the 25–64 age group, 53% of women and 34% of men have higher education. The corresponding figures in the previous census were 47% and 30%. However, nearly a third of men in Estonia have obtained a vocational qualification along with or in addition to secondary education.
When comparing Estonian men and women with their European Union counterparts, it is clear that women in Estonia are highly educated.
As at 2021, an average of 36% of women aged 25–64 in the EU have attained higher education, compared with Estonia’s 53%, which puts the latter in 3rd place in this ranking. Only Ireland (57%) and Sweden (54%) have more women with higher education that Estonia. At the beginning of 2011, however, Estonian women ranked 2nd behind Finland: 45.2% of Estonian and 45.7% of Finnish women had higher education. The European average was 26.4% at the time.
Among men, the share of those with higher education in 2021 is only slightly higher than the European average – in Estonia, the proportion of men with higher education in the 25–64 age group is 34%, whereas the European average is 31%. At the beginning of 2011, 28% of men in Estonia had higher education, while the average in Europe was 24%. In 2011, Estonia was ranked 11th but has now dropped to 13th. Luxembourg has the highest proportion of men with higher education in the European Union. It has been in the lead for the past 10 years.
Find out more:
- Estonian census results and definitions used
- Data on the highest educational attainment in European countries