Estonian Statistical Society

25th Conference of the Estonian Statistical Society “Demographic processes in the Baltic Sea region in the 21st century”

The 25th Conference of the Estonian Statistical Society will take place on 12–13 November 2013, in the Main Conference Hall of the National Library of Estonia. The theme of this year’s conference is “Demographic Processes in the Baltic Sea Region in the 21st Century”.

The conference is linked with the joint event of the statistical offices of Baltic countries, the Baltic Seminar. Its participants are welcome to attend the presentations given at the conference of the Statistical Society on 12 November. On 13 November, the Baltic Seminar will take place in the Corner Hall of the National Library of Estonia.

Many European Union countries have similar demographic trends – the population is ageing, and in Eastern Europe it is also decreasing. This trend is characteristic of the 21st century and probably quite inevitable, unless the natural demographic development is influenced by some drastic events. The main aim of the conference is to identify the factors that influence demographic processes today and to analyse how the changes in population composition are reflected in people’s social environment and family life as well as in the country as a whole. We will discuss which developments should be considered negative, and if and how the unfavourable trends could be changed. What is the role of the state, the community, and every individual in this process?

The conference has several subtopics.

Natural increase

Today’s world offers many opportunities to both men and women. Therefore, plenty of women do not want to give birth and start a family in their twenties. The consequence of delaying childbirth is that fewer children are born. At the same time, average life expectancy is rising steadily. Of course, it is positive that people are living longer but, combined with a declining birth rate, it means that the share of the elderly in the population is increasing. There are different views on population ageing – it can be seen as a problem (primarily for a country’s health and social system) as well as an opportunity. What kind of changes have occurred in the population’s age structure over the recent decades? What are the likely future trends and is it possible that fertility behaviour might change again? Can the state influence fertility behaviour? Is it possible that the child and family benefits offered by the state do not actually help to increase the fertility rate? 

Migration

In recent years, migration has been a hot topic in Estonia and the other Baltic countries, since emigration is one of the main reasons why the population of the Baltic states is declining. Before the 2011 census, we did know exactly how many people have gone to live abroad. The census results gave us an answer, but also raised new questions: will Estonia as well as Latvia and Lithuania simply run out of people? Should a decrease in population be seen as something that we must fight against at all costs, or as a situation we should accept and adjust to? Should immigration be encouraged as a way to slow down the decrease in population? On the other hand, there is more and more talk of immigration-related problems in the Nordic countries and other European Union countries. Thus, we do not know whether it would help or actually cause new, more serious problems if the countries with a declining population were to encourage immigration.

What have been the migration trends so far and how might the situation develop in the future? Is increased emigration from the Baltic countries an inevitable fact? If people go to work or study abroad, does it mean that they are now lost for their home country? In the future, could it become unnecessary to talk about the place of permanent residence? For how many people has this concept already lost its traditional meaning – since people live in more than one place or even in more than one country?  How do this kind of arrangements affect family life and is it possible that the traditional family model (a family living together in a single dwelling) could be replaced with other forms of family life in the future?

21st-century family

New forms of family life are emerging in addition to the conventional nuclear family. Divorce is no longer looked down on. For many people, getting married is not in fashion any more. The majority of children are born to cohabiting parents. Young people, especially women, who study and/or work abroad often find a partner from a foreign country. Many families have to give up normal cohabitation because one of the partners finds a job in another country. There are families where both parents work abroad and the children have been entrusted in the care of grandparents or other relatives. There are couples and also families where the partners are of the same sex. What are 21st-century families like? If and how do changes in the family structure affect demographic processes?

Ethnic minorities

Globalisation means that ethnic nationality is becoming an increasingly minor issue for people. At the same time, the topic of ethnic minorities is still relevant in many countries, because a society can only function well if the needs of all groups are taken into account. Ethnic minorities are usually considered to be in a more unfavourable position than the natives: members of ethnic minorities often have a lower level of education, which limits their labour market outlooks and thereby influences their living conditions and social status. Demographic processes are also often different in case of ethnic minorities. Due to the Soviet Union’s migration policy, the situation of ethnic minorities in the Baltic countries developed differently than in the other Baltic Sea countries in the second half of the 20th century. How similar or dissimilar is the situation of ethnic minorities in these countries today? Which demographic trends characterise ethnic minorities and how has the size and composition of ethnic minority groups changed in the last decades? Has accession to the European Union meant any changes for the ethnic minorities in the Baltic countries?

Topics of the Baltic Seminar

The Baltic Seminar is dedicated to census topics in the Baltic Sea region. Traditionally, the themes of the Baltic Seminar have been census and survey programmes, their methodology, the data sources of censuses and surveys, and problems with the quality of the results.

At this year’s 17th seminar, which is dedicated to the lessons from the 2011 population and housing census, one of the main themes is the publication of census data according to European Union regulations. Another important topic that will be discussed is preparing for the next, 2020 census round.

The conference of the Statistical Society will be held in two languages: on the first day, when also the foreign guests perform, all presentations will be in English. On the second day, the conference of the Statistical society will continue with presentations in Estonian. At the Baltic Seminar which takes place at the same time and has guests from our neighbouring countries but also from farther away, all the presentations will be given in English.

The conference is organised by Statistics Estonia and the Estonian Statistical Society.