Population census. Population has changed the least in Ida-Viru county, the most in Lääne county

Posted on 23 November 2022, 8:00

Data from the 2021 census show that 84% of the current population lived in Estonia ten years ago as well, the proportion of people who have arrived from abroad has risen significantly, and the overall population of immigrants is increasingly international. For the last ten years, internal migration has been predominantly in the direction of Harju county.

Terje Trasberg, leading analyst at Statistics Estonia, explained: “Census data on migration and secondary residence focus oninternal migration and immigration over the last ten years. The results show how many people have moved within Estonia and where, as well as who and how many have immigrated to this country in the last ten years.”

84% of the population were in Estonia ten years ago as well

1.12 million people, or 82.4% of those living in Estonia in 2021, participated in the censuses of both 2011 and 2021. In addition, 1.5% of the population are known to have lived in Estonia during the previous census but not to have participated in it. Therefore, 83.9% of the current population lived in Estonia ten years ago as well. 5.2% of the rest of the population resided abroad at the time of the previous census, 10.6% were not yet born, and for 0.4% no information is available. “Comparing the last ten years with the period between the censuses of 2000 and 2011, the proportion of people living in Estonia during two consecutive censuses has decreased by 2 percentage points. From this it can be concluded that more people than before are moving abroad and from abroad to Estonia,” said Trasberg.  

Three out of four people reside in the same county as ten years ago, and two thirds live in the same municipality. The population of Ida-Viru county has changed the least, with 83% of its residents living in the same county at the time of the previous census as well, while the population of Lääne county has undergone the greatest change: 73% of its residents lived in this county during the previous census. Looking at population changes at municipal level, it stands out that only 45% of the inhabitants of Rae rural municipality lived there ten years ago – the lowest percentage in the country. The highest share is found in Narva city, where 82% of the population has remained the same. “In general, the trend is clear – the population of cities in Ida-Viru county is the most stable, which primarily means that the number of new people coming in, both due to births and immigration, is low. The population has mainly changed in municipalities with high immigration and young populations, i.e. rural municipalities around Tallinn and Tartu,” Trasberg explained.

Fewer internal migrants, while the number of arrivals from abroad has increased manyfold

93,400 people, or 7% of the population, resided in a different county ten years ago. This is lower than in 2011, when 112,500 people (8.7%) had moved from one county to another between the two censuses. 36,400 people relocated from some county to Harju county and 23,800 moved from Harju county to another county. The remaining moves were between other counties. Ida-Viru county lost the largest number of inhabitants through internal migration, with 4,900 more people leaving to another county than arriving. 80% of internal migrants from Ida-Viru county migrated to Harju county, the highest share among counties.

5.2% of the population, or 68,600 people, resided abroad at the time of the previous census, 15,200 or 22% of whom were ethnic Estonians. In 2011, the number of people who had lived abroad during the previous census (in 2000) was 11,300, or 0.9% of the population at the time. “The number and share of arrivals from abroad has thus multiplied between these two periods. Including those who took part in the previous census but have lived abroad in the intervening period, 107,500 people have participated in international migration since the previous census. 41,600 or 39% of them were ethnic Estonians. In total, there are 285,000 people living in Estonia who have resided abroad at some point in their lives,” explained Trasberg.

Census data show that the majority of immigrants to Estonia come from other European countries. Half of the immigrants are citizens of Estonia, and more than half of them have come from Finland, with additional arrivals from the UK and Russia. Among citizens of other countries, the highest shares of immigrants are from Ukraine[1] (10.8%) and Russia (9.3%). Compared with previous censuses, the percentage of immigrants of other ethnic nationalities has increased significantly. “Although few in number individually, the combined share of other nationalities – which in this case are all except Estonians, Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Finns – is 17% (previously 11%). The number of different ethnic nationalities in Estonia has risen from 180 to 211, so the overall picture of immigrant nationalities is much more diverse than before,” said Trasberg.

Most of the migration from abroad was to cities. 48% of the immigrants who have moved to Estonia in the last ten years reside in Tallinn, home to a third of Estonia's population. As many as 60% of immigrants of non-Estonian ethnicity live in Tallinn. Of the total number of international migrants, 60% were men and 40% were women.

120,000 people have a secondary place of residence

In addition to their usual place of residence, 9% of Estonia’s population have a secondary residence, which is a dwelling that they or a member of their family were linked to in the previous year but where they did not live permanently. 93,000 people had a secondary residence in Estonia and 27,000 had theirs abroad. The most common foreign country of second residence is Finland, with more than half of foreign second residences located there. Within Estonia, secondary places of residence are split roughly in half, with some people having their usual place of residence in the same county as the secondary residence and others in a different county. More men than women have a secondary place of residence – 10% and 8%, respectively. 2.9% of men and 1.2% of women have a secondary residence abroad.

For more information on migration collected during the population census, visit rahvaloendus.ee.

The results are based on data collected in the register-based census and are published in the statistical database.

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For further information:

Helen Maria Raadik
Media Relations Manager
Marketing and Dissemination Department
Statistics Estonia
Tel +372 625 9181
press [at] stat.ee


[1] The census data are as of 31.12.2021 and therefore do not include Ukrainian war refugees.