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Census: Estonian population down 5.5 percent in twelve years

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A loss of 75k people in 10 years. To put that in perspective, that's like the cities of Parnu, Viljandi, and Haapsalu all disappearing (combined).

Despite this population decline, they continue to build new housing developments and shopping centers.

Meanwhile... what is the leadership doing about this problem of declining population? I don't see that they've addressed it at all. Reply to the comment answer
~ameeriklane [31.05.2012, 14:35]
I agree the government isn't doing squat about this problem but the drop in population is much less than what many were expected. Still, something has to be done much sooner than later
~Babymaker [31.05.2012, 15:24]
...later ????
~Neo [31.05.2012, 17:03]
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Last week I was in Latvia. Somebody told med there that the latvian government is planning to take in some 50000 from arabian countries ( refugees maybe) because they have many free flats etc after all Latvians who leave their country.

Maybe it is time for Estonians to get in some fresh blood ? In Norway these reproduce like h... Reply to the comment answer
~Norwegian [31.05.2012, 14:59]
That will never happen. Whoever told you that is making it up. Latvians are as racist as Estonians and Russians.
~No Way [31.05.2012, 15:23]
I see there are basically 3 solutions to the problem:

1. Assume a declining and aging population, and adjust appropriately. This is sort of what Japan is doing. So Estonia would need to drastically cut public services, especially in smaller towns, and just focus on population centers. They've been talking for years about reforming the local governments (e.g. Why does a town of 3,000 like Abja have their own local government?), but it still isn't happening at the rate they'd need. This is also difficult politically, because it would lead to high unemployment in these areas as the public sector lays off workers.

2. Encourage more baby-making. It's not as simple as just giving payouts to mothers (which has been tried) or increasing maternity leave (which is already done). It's a matter of increasing the quality of life and people's positive views of the future. As this is a soft measure, it's very difficult to achieve and happens gradually. Based on the comments today on Delfi about the latest census numbers, most people think the country doesn't have as much to offer compared to moving abroad. If so many people think this, it will be difficult to change.

3. Immigration. Controlled immigration can work, by importing skilled workers from a wide variety of countries. Many European countries (especially Scandinavia) made the mistake of focusing on just a few countries to accept immigrants, and this made it easy for those groups to form their own communities and not integrate. The opposite case is the US, where they even have a diversity visa (the green card lottery) with the idea of giving green cards to people from countries underrepresented in the US population (so Mexicans are not eligible, for example). Immigrants aren't a bad thing necessarily -- more than half of all companies in the Silicon Valley were started by immigrants or children of immigrants.

I don't see any of these happening though, as they are all difficult politically. With #3, apparently even big and successful companies like Skype and BLRT (ship builders) have trouble getting visas for skilled workers to come to Estonia, so I don't really see Estonia embarking on a loosened immigration scheme any time soon.

So what will happen? Probably a gradual decline. As it stands now, Estonia will probably lose another 100k in the next 10-15 years, which is like losing Tartu.

Here's a ranking of population growth rates:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population_growth_rate

(See the middle column - CIA numbers are teh latest). Out of 230 countries, Estonia ranks 225 when it comes to population growth (decline).
~ameeriklane [31.05.2012, 17:38]
". As it stands now, Estonia will probably lose another 100k in the next 10-15 years, "

Yeah, this decade saw the EU borders opened and free migration to other countries. Combined with natural population falls, this accounted for the total falls in population. This pattern will probably continue.

But given that many of those who left were/are in their "reproductive" years, and that many may have settled down sufficiently in their new countries to feel confident about raising a family, you also have to factor in an additional knock-on effect in the next decade - all the children born in the next few years who otherwise would have been born in Estonia. Granted, some families may come back, but many will be too settled in their new lives to bother. So the birth v death rates will probably decline ever further, indirectly due to prior migration.

On the immigration point - actually, given the findings of this census, the opposite will happen: it will probably be tightened even further - aren't the quotas expressed as a percentage of the total population? So if the population drops, by all rights the quotas should fall too. Let's see, what is it, 0.1% of the population? So logically, Estonia should reduce its quota of non-EU immigrants by 75 people!
~rahvaloendus [31.05.2012, 19:57]
Fully agree with ameriklane's statement.
~knut albers [31.05.2012, 20:03]
On point 1. "This is also difficult politically, because it would lead to high unemployment in these areas as the public sector lays off workers. "

...which would probably lead to MORE population falls as the unemployed head for jobs abroad.

On point 2. "Encourage more baby-making."

They've been talking about this for years, just like they talk about attracting Estonian emigrants back and it's just a constant merry-go-round that goes nowhere, meanwhile the population continues falling. Here is typically what happens: (i) someone suggests immigration to counter the falling population (ii) politicians and the public angrily retort that instead, Estonians should be encouraged to have babies and/or foreign-residing Estonians to come back (iii) nothing happens (witness the dismal results of the "Talendid koju" project (iv) population continues to fall (v) someone suggests immigration to counter the falling population... etc

On point 3. "Immigration".

See above. Any suggestion about this will immediately be countered by the "people should have more babies" or "let's bring back Estonians from abroad" - ignoring the fact that if these things were so easy to implement, then there wouldn't even BE a need to suggest immigration.
~rahvaloendus [31.05.2012, 20:11]
Estonia has always tried to make the country as businessfriendly as possible. However that many business need immigrants to grow, doesn't get into their minds. Even if (and that's a big IF) Estonians will make more babies, they will only be available for the labour market in about 20 years, so what to do in the meantime? Is this how Estonia's successtory will end: grow old before becoming rich?
My idea: in a democracy you cannot force people to have babies and you cannot force emigrants to come back, but you can attract immigrants. But this collides with the nationalist paranoia of many Estonians.
~Mark [01.06.2012, 13:24]
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And why exactly is this a problem? Estonians like their room, so a little more room should not make anyone sad. Reply to the comment answer
~Juku [02.06.2012, 00:34]
The problem comes with the ratio of working people to non-working people (mostly pensioners). Pensioners services and pensions are mostly paid from tax revenues, which generally come from working people. So if you have 1 working person for every 3 pensioners, that's a large tax burden for the working people. It becomes unsustainable.
~ameeriklane [02.06.2012, 00:57]
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I do not see a mention of what age group or ethnic group has left Estonia ? Reply to the comment answer
~teine ameeriklane [02.06.2012, 18:03]
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