Global Estonian | Estonians could be in the minority by end of century
Estonians could be in the minority by end of century

Estonians could be in the minority by end of century

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While the latest population forecast for Estonia is not yet complete, if current trends continue, Estonians could make up less than half of the total population of the country by the end of this century, according to one expert.

Demographic researcher Allan Puur noted that immediately after World War Two, Estonians made up 97 percent of the local populace, meaning that the bulk of people who are referred to as "other nationalities" have largely arrived in the country since that time.

Puur said: "In order to predict what might happen to the proportions in the future, we need a population forecast which addresses Estonians and other nationalities separately."

"A forecast for Estonia of this kind has been made once before, namely with the 2016-2017 human development report. This demonstrated that if high rates of migration continue, the share of Estonians will fall," he went on.

Over the past decade, Estonia has seen an average annual net positive migration of approximately 4,500, inclusive of war refugees from Ukraine.

 Puur described that the previous forecast, which found the share of Estonians in the total overall populace was likely to fall to around 60 percent, had an event horizon through to the end of this century.

These findings are outdated, he added, and the shift will be even greater – as a relatively modest net immigration rate of 2,000-2,500 people per year was forecast, compared with the 4,500 per year as noted seen in recent years, even excluding those fleeing Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The national statistics office, Statistics Estonia, is to produce a new population forecast for Estonia this year, which will include calculations based on nationality and will clarify things further, Puur added.

One recent study from Statistics Estonia found that 65 percent of the population in Estonia speaks Estonian as their native language.

Those whose first language is Estonian are not identical to those who identify as Estonians, Puur noted, putting the figure of the latter group at 68 percent of the total. This will largely comprise those people whose first language is Russian but who often speak fluent Estonian and were often born and grew up here.

It is also a set definition entered in the national population register.

At the same time, this total has been rising, Puur noted, citing official statistics which find that whereas around 904,000 people identified as Estonian in 2017, the current figure is 931,000.

"This shows that there is a change in self-identification happening, where some people who previously identified as something else are now choosing to register themselves as Estonians in the population register," Puur elaborated.

As for Estonia's low birth rate – 2023's 10,949 live births was a figure nearly 700 lower than the preceding year's total and an all-time low in the history of Estonia's population statistics – Puur said that influences include both short-term crisis-like factors and longer-term more structural factors.

Covid, inflation, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine fall into the first category, he said.

"These crises continue, although they will eventually resolve," Puur went on.

As for the longer-term factors, Puur said: "One factor is that we are still in a phase where the population segment of childbearing age is getting smaller each year in absolute terms, so thanks to this change, there are an estimated 150-160 fewer births each year."

"Totted up over a five- to 10-year period makes for quite a significant change, and this trend for decline will continue into the mid-2030s," Puur added.

The desired number of children has fallen with each generation also, he noted. Whereas the typical figure for potential parents born in the 1970s to 1980s was up to 2.2 children per family, the desired number for those born in the 1990s through to early 2000s has fallen to 1.9, Puur said, qualifying this by noting that desires do not always translate into realities.

According to Statistics Estonia, as of the beginning of this year, there were 1,374,687 people residing in Estonia.

Last year as noted there were 10,949 births recorded, but with the 16,002 deaths reported for 2023, the organic population growth was once again in the negative. The overall population growth that was reported was therefore the result of net immigration, in other words, more people moved into Estonia than moved away from it (returning Estonians are included in the figures).




Veebilehte haldab Integratsiooni Sihtasutus.
Sihtasutuse asutaja on Eesti Vabariik, kelle nimel teostab asutajaõigusi Kultuuriministeerium.