The Estonian population grows – because of immigration

Estonia again experienced more deaths than births in 2020 and its population decreased by 2,602 people due to negative natural increase; however, positive net migration helped grow the population as 3,782 people moved to the country, according to Statistics Estonia, the country’s official statistics agency.

As of 1 January 2021, 1,330,068 people lived in Estonia, according to the agency, and thanks to positive net migration, that is 1,179 more people than the year before.

The number of children born in Estonia in 2020 was 13,209, which is 890 less than the year before. Ethel Maasing, a leading analyst at Statistics Estonia, said the fertility rate fell primarily in younger age groups.

“The average number of births fell in every age group among women of childbearing age, with the biggest decrease registered in age group 25-29. Year-on-year, there were more births of the fourth and fifth child, while there was a decrease in the births of the first, second and third child,” Maasing said.

A mother and a child by Estonian seaside. The image is illustrative. Photo by Aron Urb.

There were 15,811 deaths in 2020, which is 410 more than the year before. The total number of deaths was a little higher than in the previous ten years when the annual number of deaths ranged from 15,200 to 15,800. 

“Natural increase, ie the difference between the number of births and deaths, was last lower than this in 2005. But before that, natural increase was lower still – for example, in 1994, the population decreased by more than 8,000 persons due to negative natural increase,” Maasing said.

Estonian citizens the main group to both emigrate and immigrate

A comparison by county shows the continuation of the consistent trend where natural change was again positive in Harju and Tartu counties but negative in other counties.

“Ida-Viru county stands out in terms of negative natural increase. Compared with other counties, Ida-Viru county has a smaller share of women in childbearing age and its population is ageing,” the analyst added.

The number of people who immigrated to Estonia was 16,209, according to Statistics Estonia, and 12,427 people emigrated from Estonia, resulting in positive net migration for the sixth year in a row. Compared with the previous year, immigration decreased by 1,963 people and emigration by 374.

Estonian citizens represented the biggest share of both immigrants and emigrants, but for the first time since 2016, the net migration of Estonian citizens was negative. Altogether, 6,920 Estonian citizens moved abroad, while 5,900 citizens moved back to Estonia.

Migration was still the most active between Estonia and Finland. But for the first time in three years, Estonia had negative net migration with Finland, meaning that more people moved from Estonia to Finland than the other way around, the agency said.

Cover: Newly arrived people attending an event at Lift99 coworking space in Tallinn, Estonia. The image is illustrative. Photo by Andres Raudjalg.

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