Population census: Estonia's population and the number of Estonians have grown

Posted on 1. June 2022 11:00

Data collected from registers in the 2021 census reveal that in ten years, Estonia’s population has grown, people live longer, and the number of working-age persons has fallen. Over the last decade, Estonia has seen a rise in the number of ethnic nationalities, countries of citizenship, mother tongues, and countries of birth, as well as an increase in the number of Estonians.

At the moment of census, on 31 December 2021, there were 1,331,824 people living permanently in Estonia, which is 2.9% more than at the same time ten years ago. Men account for 47.6% of the population and their share increased by 1.2 percentage points, while the share of women is 52.4%.  The average inhabitant of Estonia is 42.2 years old, or 1.4 years older than the average inhabitant in 2011.

“The positive side of an ageing population is that the number of people aged 80 and over has increased – in other words, our people are living longer, and this is particularly noticeable for men. Compared to the time of the previous census, men live on average 3 years longer and women 1.7 years longer. The problem here is the proportion of women of child-bearing age, which has declined, but this has been mitigated to some extent by the increase in the number of children born per woman and the increase in the number of children,” said Terje Trasberg, leading analyst at Statistics Estonia.

Over the past decade, Estonia has seen an increase in both the number of children (0–14-year-olds) and the number of older persons (65+), whereas the number of working-age persons has fallen. There are 217,792 children living permanently in Estonia, which is 9% more than ten years ago. The total number of older persons is 272,164, or 18.6% more than in the previous census. The number of working-age persons is 841,868 – a decrease by 2.7%.

Share of children, working-age and older persons in population

815,003 people (61.2% of the population) live in urban settlements, which is 4.2% more than in 2011. The number of people living in small urban settlements has increased by 12.8% in ten years. According to Terje Trasberg, urban sprawl has been on the rise. “The urge to move to bigger cities has stabilised or is coming to an end, but rural areas have not gained much from this – especially families with children increasingly prefer small towns around big cities,” explained Trasberg.

According to census data, compared to 2011, Estonia's population is much more diverse and the number of people of Estonian ethnic nationality has also risen. “Over the past 10 years, the number of ethnic nationalities, countries of citizenship, and mother tongues has increased, but the share of Estonians has remained almost unchanged. The number of native speakers of Estonian has been stable as well. The number of Estonian citizens has increased, while the number of citizens of Russia and Belarus has decreased,” summarised Trasberg.

There are people of 211 ethnic nationalities residing in Estonia, which is 31 more than 10 years ago. A total of 151 different citizenships are represented in Estonia – 33 more than 10 years earlier. 69.4% of people living in Estonia are of Estonian ethnic nationality – up from 68,3% 20 years ago.

In 10 years, the number of Estonians increased nearly 2%, the number of Russians decreased 3.4%, and the number of Belarusians fell by 7.7%. The number of Ukrainians has increased 23% (this statistic does not include war refugees who have arrived in Estonia after the moment of census), and the number of Latvians has risen 117%.

There are 243 different languages spoken as mother tongue in Estonia, which is 86 more than in 2011 and more than twice as many as in 2000. The proportion of Estonian as mother tongue has remained virtually unchanged in 20 years (~68%).

The population census of 2021 was carried out by combining a register-based census with a sample survey. Register-based census data collection runs from January to July 2022. Data are collected from approximately 30 registers.

Liina Osila, project manager for the population and housing census at Statistics Estonia, said that this year's census survey coincided with the height of the corona epidemic, which was compounded by concerns about the rising electricity prices and the complexity of compensation, and finally the security crisis. “In light of all this, I dare to say that the decision to conduct a combined census and mainly rely on registers this year's was justified, and we can consider the census an all-around success,” stated Osila.

Urmet Lee, Director General of Statistics Estonia, said that the first census results published today confirm that our title of a smart digital country is well-earned and that we can count on the availability of our register data. “It is high time to start thinking about how we can conduct a population census at any time we want, without burdening people with questions,” added Lee.

The random sample of the census survey included 40,720 addresses all over Estonia. The specific number of randomly selected addresses in a municipality depended on the number of its inhabitants. 43% of the population of Estonia was enumerated online: those not included in the sample were able (in addition to register-based data collection) to fill in the census questionnaire voluntarily.

The results of the population census published on 1 June 2022 are based on census data retrieved from registers and they are published in the statistical database. The data collected with the survey are still being processed and analysed and Statistics Estonia will publish these results in November.

Population census data publication calendar

1.06.2022 Location and gender-age distribution of population

5.07.2022 Dwellings and buildings with dwellings

3.08.2022 Education

6.09.2022 Households and families

4.10.2022 Native origin

5.10.2022 Living conditions

2.11.2022 Religious affiliation (on the basis of a survey)

3.11.2022 Command of foreign languages. Dialects. (on the basis of a survey)

23.11.2022 Native origin and migration (on the basis of a survey)

28.11.2022 Health (on the basis of a survey)

15.12.2022 Economic activity, sources of subsistence, and labour migration of population


For further information:

Hanna-Liisa Ruul

Communications Partner
Marketing and Dissemination Department
Statistics Estonia
Tel +372 625 9264