Native origin


The share of residents born in Estonia has not decreased since the 2011 census, but there is a higher number of countries of birth represented among residents of Estonia who were born elsewhere.

84.9% of the residents in Estonia were born here. This is very similar to the results of the 2011 census, when Estonia was the country of birth for 85.1% of the population. There is a marked difference compared to the earlier census of 2000: at that time, 80.8% of the population had been born in Estonia.

According to the 2021 census, there are people born in 175 different countries living in Estonia. There were 152 countries of birth counted in the 2011 census, and 96 in the 2000 census.

Explore the chart for more information.

Native and foreign-origin population

The populace of Estonia has been divided into native and foreign-origin population. Individuals are considered natives if at least one of their parents and one of their grandparents was born in Estonia. Foreign-origin population, in turn, has been broken down into the first, second, and third generation according to whether a person has settled in Estonia on his or her own initiative or whether his/her parent(s) or grandparent(s) had already done so.

The first generation of foreign-origin population includes foreign-born individuals who have immigrated to Estonia but whose parents or grandparents were not born here. In the younger age groups, the first generation comprises, for example, foreign students who have been living here for a longer period of time, and in the older age groups, we see people who were born elsewhere and stayed in Estonia after the country regained independence. If first-generation immigrants have a child in Estonia and they live here permanently, their child is included in the second generation of foreign-origin population. The second generation may also cover a child born in Estonia to a woman who moved to live and work here from abroad. The third generation of foreign-origin population is made up of individuals with at least one parent born in Estonia and both sets of grandparents born elsewhere.

Native populace accounts for 72.5% of Estonia’s total population

According to the population and housing census of 2021, there are 962,643 natives living in Estonia, comprising 72.5% of the total population.[1] At the time of the previous census in 2011, the share of the native populace in the overall population was slightly higher, standing at 75.3%.

Foreign-origin population makes up 27.5% of Estonia’s total population, and it is divided into first, second and third generation according to the country of birth of the person, his/her parents, and/or grandparents.

  • First generation – permanent residents of Estonia who and whose parents were born abroad. They account for 13.4% of our permanent residents.
  • Second generation – permanent residents of Estonia who were born here but whose parents are foreign-born. Such individuals make up 7.7% of Estonia’s population.
  • Third generation – permanent residents of Estonia with at least one of the parents born here and all grandparents born abroad. 6.4% of people living permanently in Estonia belong to this category.

Compared with the previous census conducted in 2011, the biggest change has occurred in the third generation of foreign-origin population, the proportion of which has increased by 2.4 percentage points in 10 years.

The native population, 48% of which are men and 52% are women, is, on average, 39.1 years old.

The average age of the foreign-origin population, with 46% of it being men and 54% women, is 50.3 years.

The first generation of foreign-origin population (45% of it men, 55% women) is 57.6 years old on average, the second generation – 47% men, 53% women – is, on average, 49.9 years old, and the average age of the third generation (50% men, 50% women) is 35.7 years.

See the graph for a more detailed age breakdown of the native and foreign-origin population.

What is Estonia’s foreign-origin population like?  

Nearly half (182,579 individuals, or 49.9%) of the people of foreign origin were born in Estonia, 47% of them have Estonian citizenship, but only 11.6% consider themselves ethnic Estonians and just 9% are native Estonian speakers.

As expected, Estonia’s foreign-origin population is mainly of Russian descent: 73.4% are of Russian ethnicity and 27.5% were born in Russia. Citizenship of the Russian Federation is held by 39.8% of the non-native population. Furthermore, 32.7% of all people of foreign origin are stateless persons, or holders of the so-called grey passport.

Estonia’s foreign-origin populace has become more diverse over the past 10 years. In 2011, holders of Russian citizenship and stateless persons together accounted for 91.9% of the total foreign-origin population, while in the 2021 census they represented only 72,5% of the population. It is the first generation of non-natives that plays the most prominent role in this change. For instance, there has been a marked increase in the proportion of people with Ukrainian, Latvian, and Finnish citizenship among the first generation of foreign-origin population.

Looking at the ethnic composition of the foreign-origin populace, it is worth noting that 22.6% of Estonia’s third generation foreign-origin inhabitants (i.e. persons whose parents were born in Estonia and grandparents were born abroad) now consider themselves ethnic Estonians. 10 years ago, only 10,7% did.

Table 1. Share of persons with Estonian citizenship among native and foreign-origin population in 2021 and 2011

Native population

Foreign-origin population

.. 1st generation of foreign-origin population

.. 2nd generation of foreign-origin population

.. 3rd generation of foreign-origin population


99.2% (954,869)

47.0% (171,571)

27.3% (48,777)

57.7% (58,893)

75.2% (63,901)


The division of the rest by citizenship into five larger groups:


1. Russia – 39.8%

2. Undefined * – 32.7%

3. Ukraine – 8.1%

4. Latvia – 2.5%

5. Finland – 2.3%

1. Russia – 41.2%

2. Undefined * – 20.9%

3. Ukraine – 11.2%

4. Finland – 3.4%

5. Latvia – 3.1%

1. Undefined * – 56.7%

2. Russia – 36.8%

3. Ukraine – 1.8%

4. Latvia – 1.1%

5. Lithuania – 0.8%

1. Undefined * – 57.2%

2. Russia – 37.5%

3. Ukraine – 1.5%

4. Latvia – 1.4%

5. Lithuania – 1.0%


98.4% (959,155)

44.6% (139,349)

32.7% (53,762)

53.0% (52,093)

67.1% (33,494)


The division of the rest by citizenship into five larger groups:


1. Russia – 48.4%

2. Undefined * – 43.5%

3. Ukraine – 2.6%

4. Latvia – 0.9%

5. Belarus – 0.8%

1. Russia – 56.1%

2. Undefined * – 33.4%

3. Ukraine – 3.5%

4. Finland –1.2%

5. Belarus – 1.1%

1. Undefined * – 62.3%

2. Russia – 34.4%

3. Ukraine – 1.1%

4. Lithuania – 0.7%

5. Latvia – 0.6%

1. Undefined * – 59.5%

2. Russia – 36.2%

3. Ukraine – 1.2%

4. Latvia – 1.1%

5. Lithuania – 1.0%

*Stateless person with rights similar to those of a citizen

able 2. Share of persons of Estonian ethnic nationality among native and foreign-origin population in 2021 and 2011

Native population

Foreign-origin population

.. 1st generation of foreign-origin population

.. 2nd generation of foreign-origin population

.. 3rd generation of foreign-origin population


91.0% (876,046)

11.6% (42,358)

4.4% (7,913)

15.0% (15,275)

22.6% (19,170)


The division of the rest by ethnic nationality into five larger groups:


1. Russian – 73.4%

2. Ukrainian – 8.4%

3. Belarusian – 3.5%

4. Finn – 2.4%

5. Latvian – 1.1%

1. Russian – 59.3%

2. Ukrainian – 12.9%

3. Belarusian – 5.0%

4. Finn – 3.2%

5. Latvian – 1.8%

1. Russian – 86%

2. Ukrainian – 4.6%

3. Belarusian – 2.6%

4. Finn – 1.8%

5. Lithuanian – 0.5%

1. Russian – 92.5%

2. Ukrainian – 2.2%

3. Finn – 1.1%

4. Belarusian – 1.0%

5. Tatar – 0.4%


89.6% (873,820)

8.2% (25,709)

5.3% (8,757)

11.8% (11,632)

10.7% (5,320)


The division of the rest by ethnic nationality into five larger groups:


1. Russian – 80%

2. Ukrainian – 7.4%

3. Belarusian – 4.2%

4. Finn – 2.1%

5. Tatar – 0.6%

1. Russian – 73%

2. Ukrainian – 10.1%

3. Belarusian – 5.8%

4. Finn – 2.5%

5. Tatar – 0.8%

1. Russian – 86.3%

2. Ukrainian – 5.0%

3. Belarusian – 2.8%

4. Finn – 1.9%

5. Tatar – 0.5%

1. Russian – 92.1%

2. Ukrainian –2.6%

3. Belarusian – 2.6%

4. Finn – 1.2%

5. Jew – 0.4%

[1] When calculating the share of the native population, only individuals whose origin is known are taken into account. If information on a person’s country of birth or that of his/her parents is unavailable, origin is not established. Fortunately, such cases are few and far between – only 3,262 people, or 0.2% of the population, are of unknown origin.

Immigration and return

Census statistics on migration and secondary residence focus on the changes in the location of the population compared with the previous census, immigration in the last ten years, and data on inhabitants’ second place of residence and arrival in the country. The analysis was done in accordance with the administrative division valid on the last day of 2021, i.e. the census moment. Therefore, the places of residence in 2011 have been adjusted to the administrative division in force at the time of the 2021 census. 

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

1,331,824 inhabitants were enumerated in Estonia on the census moment (31.12.2021), which is nearly 3% or about 37,000 persons more than in the previous census ten years earlier (31.12.2011). Of those who took part in the latest census, 1,097,767 people (82.4%) also participated in the census before that. 5.2% of the population resided abroad at the time of the previous census and 10.6% of the population could not participate in that census because they were born on 31.12.2011 or later. 1.5% of people are known to have lived in Estonia, but there is no further data on their location, and for 0.4% no residence information is available. Compared with the censuses of 2000 and 2011, the share of the ‘same people’ among those enumerated has decreased somewhat. In 2011, 86.2% of the population said that they had resided in Estonia at the time of the 2000 census. However, it is worth noting that living in Estonia during the two censuses does not exclude residing abroad in the intervening period.

At the time of the previous census, 75.4% of the current population resided in Estonia and in the same county. This means that on average, one in four people in every county is a newcomer in the context of the last ten years, i.e. has immigrated (from another county or from abroad) or was born after the previous census. This figure is 67.7% for municipalities. Obviously, the percentages vary quite a lot from region to region. For instance, 73% of the current inhabitants of Lääne county lived there in 2011 as well. Ida-Viru county, however, tops the ranking with the highest proportion of people who resided in the same county in 2011 (83%). While the figure for Lääne county is, in a sense, the smallest by chance (i.e. the second- and third-place counties are close behind), Ida-Viru county is more than 5 percentage points ahead of the next county.  

Two thirds of Estonia’s inhabitants resided in the same rural municipality or city in both 2021 and 2011. When these municipalities are ranked, the populations of Narva, Sillamäe, and Kohtla-Järve have changed the least. This means that fewer people than average are born in these municipalities and fewer people than average migrate to these. For instance, 82% of the current population of Narva already resided there in 2011. However, only 45% of the current population of Rae rural municipality lived there in 2011. Given Rae's location on the outskirts of Tallinn, which is conducive to immigration, and one of the highest proportions of young families in the country’s population, this rural municipality’s position in the ranking seems perfectly logical.

Valga and Tallinn have the highest proportions of arrivals from abroad. Almost 9% of the population of each resided in a foreign country at the time of the previous census. The rural municipalities with the lowest number of foreign arrivals are Põlva, Tõrva, and Kihnu, where their proportion stands at 1%. In terms of internal migration, the share of the population living in another municipality in 2011 is highest in Ruhnu and Vormsi rural municipalities, but if we exclude these on account to their small population, the rural municipalities with the highest internal migration incidence are Luunja, Rae, and Kambja. As much as a third of their current population have moved there from another municipality. The lowest numbers of internal migrants have arrived in Narva, Sillamäe, and Valga. The share of people born between the two censuses is highest in Rae (19%) and Kambja rural municipality (16%), so almost one in five residents of Rae rural municipality were born after the previous census. The proportion is lowest in Ruhnu rural municipality (4%) and Loksa city (6%).

Harju county attracted the most migrants

Of the 1.12 million people living in Estonia at the time of the previous census, 89.9% still reside in the same county. The share of such people is highest in Ida-Viru county (94.2%) and lowest in Hiiu county (83.7%). In ten counties, the highest number of immigrants have come from Harju county, and in five counties from Tartu county, showing the importance of Tartu county as the centre of Southern Estonia. Considering the proportion of the population who lived in Estonia at the time of the previous census, it appears that, for example, every tenth inhabitant of Hiiu county resided in Harju county ten years ago. Almost the same proportion of former residents of Harju county are now also found in Rapla county. Põlva county, however, stands out with the highest share of former inhabitants of Tartu county (6.6%). Incidentally, Põlva is also the only county where the percentage of former residents of Harju county is only the fourth highest, after native residents of Põlva county and former residents of Tartu and Võru counties.

In absolute numbers, people have moved mainly between Harju county and other counties, and more often heading to Harju county. 36,400 people have relocated to Harju county from various counties. 8,600 of them have come from Tartu county, 7,100 from Ida-Viru county, and 3,600 from Pärnu county. The largest outward migration from Harju county is towards Tartu county – 3,400 people have relocated there from Harju county. However, excluding Harju county, the highest number of people have moved between Tartu and Põlva, with 1,400 people moving in both directions. Over ten years, three counties – Hiiu, Lääne, and Saare county – managed to gain more residents from Harju county than they lost. None of Estonia’s counties lost population to all the other counties, but Ida-Viru county lost inhabitants to the largest number of counties.

Compared with other ethnic nationalities living here, Estonians are more mobile within their home country. 88.5% of the ethnic Estonians living in Estonia at the time of both censuses also resided in the same county. For other nationalities, the figure was 92.5%. Other ethnic nationalities have migrated mostly from Ida-Viru county to Harju county (5,500 people). This is followed by migration in the opposite direction (1,600 people). Looking only at internal migration of ethnic Estonians, Ida-Viru county drops down the ranking, but the other main directions of migration remain the same.

Estonians are the main contributors to international migration, but the picture is increasingly diverse

At the time of the 2021 population census, there were 107,000 people residing in Estonia who have participated in international migration after the previous census. This includes persons who resided in Estonia at the time of the previous as well as the latest census but have lived abroad in the intervening period. A total of 285,000 people who have ever resided abroad live in Estonia now.  

During the Soviet era, Estonians understandably made up a smaller proportion of immigrants than they do now, lagging behind both Russians and, at times, Ukrainians. From the 1990s onwards, the share of ethnic Estonians among immigrants rose sharply to the top of the list, although there was a decline in absolute numbers. Over the past decade, the proportion of Estonians among immigrants has decreased, mainly due to other (less numerous) ethnic nationalities. Although Estonians lead the migration statistics here, they account for about 40% of all migrants of the last ten years. The share of Russians among immigrants has fallen from over 60% in the late 1980s to 20% today, making them the second most numerous immigrant nationality. Although Ukrainians have always been high in the immigration rankings, their share has fluctuated over time. In the mid-1980s, Ukrainians accounted for 12% of immigrants, 4–5% in the 1990s and 2000s, and up to 10% in recent years. The overall immigration picture has become much more diverse in terms of ethnicities. There are more people of different ethnic nationalities from Western Europe, Asia, and Africa living here.

Immigration over the past decade has moved in an upward trend

Since 2012, immigration has increased year by year until 2020 when it slowed down somewhat due to the pandemic, but it recovered in 2021. 60% of immigrants have been men, both among Estonians and non-Estonians. Estonian immigrants are on average three years older than non-Estonian ones. In almost half of the cases, it is unclear from which country immigrants arrived. There are often two reasons for this. Firstly, ethnic Estonian returnees have not registered their departure, making it difficult to say from which country they returned. Secondly, in many cases, those arriving with a visa are required to provide information on citizenship and country of birth, but not on country of last residence.

Of the known countries, the highest proportion of immigrants have arrived from Finland (31%), followed by Ukraine (15%), and Russia (11%). This is a significant change from 2000–2011, when the highest number of arrivals came from Russia, followed by Finland, and Ukraine was only sixth in the ranking. If we consider immigration by citizenship, which is known in 99.4% of cases, the highest number of arrivals hold the citizenship of Estonia (49.5%), followed by citizens of Ukraine (10.8%), and Russia (9.3%). 14.9% of immigrants were citizens of an EU country* (excluding Estonia).

Tallinn is the main destination

Almost half (48%) of the immigrants of the last decade reside in Tallinn, which is home to a third of Estonia's total population, so Tallinn has proportionally more international migrants than any other place in the country. Across counties, immigration is also skewed towards the capital – as many as 58% of the immigrants have settled in Harju county, where 46% of Estonia’s total population resides. This means that Harju county has the highest number of immigrants per capita. If immigrants are broken down into Estonians and non-Estonians, we see that Estonian immigrants are fewer in Harju, Ida-Viru, Tartu, and Valga county. 

*Member State of the European Union as at 31.12.2021, regardless of the time of migration.