Estonia's population grows due to immigration in 2023

  • 2024-01-18
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - On Jan. 1, 2024, the population of Estonia was 1,366,491, which is 607 persons more than at the same time a year ago, according to the preliminary data of Statistics Estonia.

In 2023, there were 10,721 births and 15,832 deaths in Estonia. Based on the data on registered migration, 20,209 persons immigrated to Estonia and 14,491 persons emigrated from Estonia. Compared with a year earlier, the number of births, deaths and immigrants has fallen, while the number of emigrants has risen.

Terje Trasberg, leading analyst at Statistics Estonia, said that 2023, like 2022, was characterised by a record-low number of births, 925 fewer than a year earlier.

"In 2023, there were 5,111 fewer births than deaths, while 5,718 more persons moved to Estonia than left for abroad. Therefore, the positive net migration outweighed the negative natural increase and helped to maintain a marginally positive population change," Trasberg explained.

10,721 children were born in 2023, the lowest number of births since 1919, when statistics started to be published consistently. This is the first time the number of births has fallen below 11,000. Last year's figure was also lower than the birth rate in 2022, which so far was the lowest in the last 100 years. 

"There are several reasons behind the low birth rate. The current childbearers are largely from the small generations of the 1990s, but the decline is much steeper than the number of women exiting active childbearing age would explain," noted Trasberg. 

Even more significantly than by demographics, birth rates are also affected by the current situation in the country and the world at large -- heightened economic and political uncertainty and the general rise in the cost of living have led families to postpone having children. Unfortunately, the easing of the coronavirus crisis has not had a positive impact on the number of births. In 2022, the neighbouring countries Latvia and Finland reported the lowest number of births in a century as well, with a new negative record expected in 2023, according to preliminary data.

The pre-pandemic (2010–2019) annual average number of deaths stood at 15,545, and in both 2021 and 2022 the number of deaths notably exceeded this average. In 2023, the figure returned to the level seen before the pandemic, with 15,832 deaths according to preliminary data, which is still about 300 more than the average of the previous decade. 

According to the data on registered migration from the Population Register, 20,209 persons immigrated to Estonia and 14,491 persons emigrated from Estonia in 2023. This means that net migration was positive -- arrivals outnumbered departures by 5,718 people. 11,529 or 57 percent of all immigrants were of Ukrainian citizenship. Compared with a year earlier, the number of immigrants with Ukrainian citizenship decreased by 21,688. Although the number of Ukrainian citizens immigrating was three times lower than in 2022, it was still several times higher than before the start of the full-scale war. According to preliminary data, 6,515 Ukrainian citizens left Estonia. 

"There were 4,451 Estonian citizens leaving and 2,865 citizens returning to Estonia -- but Estonians often do not register their migration and thus the share of Estonian citizens among registered migrants is small. In 2023, there were 747 immigrants with Russian citizenship," added Trasberg. 

"Unlike preliminary birth and death statistics, the preliminary statistics on migration are likely to be significantly revised, since the preliminary figures are based on the data of the Population Register where people often fail to change their data as they emigrate or immigrate. Statistics Estonia will supplement migration data with data on unregistered migration, and the revised data will be released in May," Trasberg added. 

The data on registered migration published here cover persons who immigrated to Estonia in the last year and who, as of Jan. 1, 2024, had a place of residence in Estonia according to the Population Register. Therefore, these figures do not include, for example, those Ukrainian refugees who are staying in Estonia but have not registered a place of residence here. 

In Estonia, data on Ukrainian war refugees are also collected by the Police and Border Guard Board, who publish the number of persons applying for temporary protection. Persons who have been granted temporary protection are included in the preliminary population figure only if they were residing in Estonia as at Jan. 1, 2024, and had registered a place of residence in Estonia. 

The preliminary population number is based on the initial data on births, deaths and registered migration of the previous year. Statistics Estonia will publish the revised population figure on May 14.