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Population and Housing Census 2012

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In 2012 the 11th population and housing census took place in Estonia, during which all of the permanent residents and living spaces in Estonia were enumerated. The census is the only study that gives thorough statistics regarding how many people live in Estonia, where people live and in what conditions, and the distribution of nationalities in the population. The last census carried out in Estonia took place in 2000, and juxtaposing the results of the two censuses allows us to see recent trends in the Estonian population. This knowledge is extremely important for planning Estonia's future.

Conducting the census

The population and housing census lasted three months and was done in two parts. From 31 December 2011 until 1 February 2012, people could participate in the census over the internet. The opportunity to participate in the census via the internet was used by 880 455 people, around two-thirds of the population. Estonia set a record for the highest participation rate in an online census in the world.

From 20 February to 31 March 2012, census-takers visited the homes of people who did not participate in the e-census.

Census results

In the census that ran from 31 December to 31 March, 1 294 236 permanent Estonian residents were enumerated, of which 693 884 were women and 600 352 were men. Compared with the last census, the number of permanent residents in Estonia has decreased by 75 816 or 5.5% (in 2000 the census counted 1 370 052).

The population has decreased

  • by 32 000 people as a result of negative natural population growth
  • by 22 000 people as a result of registered emigration
  • by about 22 000 people as a result of unregistered emigration

Age structure of population

In the eleven years between the last two censuses, the age structure of the population has shifted. While in 2000 people 14 years or younger made up 18% of the population, in 2011 their percentage had fallen to 15%. At the same time, the proportion of people 65 and over rose to 18% (in 2000 it was 15%). The proportion of people of working age (15-65 years old) remained on the same level as in 2000 (67%).

On the basis of this information it can be said that there is an aging trend in the Estonian population. The aging of the population means that the proportion of older people in the population is increasing, which can lead to changes in the country's political and socio-economic situation.

Age structure of population in 2000 and 2011

Distribution of population by nationality

In the 2012 census 68.7% of those enumerated defined themselves as Estonian, 24.8% as Russian, and 4.9% as another nationality. Nationality was left undefined by 1.5% of people.

According to data from the 2000 census, the Estonian population was made up of 67.9% Estonians, or 930 219 people. The next biggest group was Russians with 351 178 people, or 25.6%, and other nationalities made up 5.9%.

Distribution of Estonian population by nationality in 2000 and 2011

Geographical relocation of Estonian residents

In addition to the emigration that has taken place over the last 11 years, changes in the regional concentration of people within Estonia can also be seen when comparing new data to that of the 2000 census. The population has grown around the major centres in Harju County (where the capital Tallinn is located) and Tartu County (which contains Tartu, the second-biggest Estonian city), by 5.1% and 0.5% respectively. In every other county the population has decreased, with the greatest decreases seen in Järva County (21.2%) and the small island county of Hiiu (18.9%).

As a result of the concentration of the population and economic activity in Harju and Tartu counties, the other counties have little ability to attract new residents. Reasons for this include the weak ties between the cities and rural areas, the lack of attractive jobs, and limited opportunities for leisure-time activities – this results in uneven regional development.

More detailed data from the census will be published in 2013.

Relocation of Estonian residents within the country


More information: Statistical Office of Estonia