Why does Statistics Estonia conduct social surveys?
One of the markers of a sovereign state is independent statistics. Social surveys are a bridge between the government and the people. Only with surveys one can collect information about the experience, opinions, economic situation and living conditions of the population in Estonia. Such data help to shape the policies that govern the country and the services necessary for everyone.
Surveys are used to gather information unobtainable by other means. Household consumption, for instance, can only be assessed by asking the household about its purchasing habits. It is often difficult to understand why these things have to be asked from people. One could ask shops for example – purchases are registered at the checkout anyway. But this would not allow us to assess what a particular household has bought; can a single-parent household afford as much as a two-parent one or, whether these purchases have been made namely by Estonian households.
In speeches, Estonian politicians, scientists and opinion leaders often speak about the coping, unemployment, income and living conditions of the population in Estonia. Such information frequently comes from the surveys of Statistics Estonia.
What kind of social surveys does Statistics Estonia conduct?
The surveys of Statistics Estonia are state surveys i.e. they are in compliance with the respective Government of the Republic Regulation and meet international criteria. Our surveys are internationally harmonized enabling us to compare the situation in Estonia to that of other countries. In Estonia, state surveys were launched in the autumn of 1925 with the Household Budget Survey of the Tallinn workers’ households.
In 2013 Statistics Estonia is going to conduct three surveys:
- Labour Force Survey
The Labour Force Survey provides an overview of the employment, unemployment and working conditions of Estonian population as well as of the changes in the Estonian labour market.
- Social Survey
The aim of the Social Survey is to receive information on the income and living conditions as well as the inequality and poverty of Estonian residents.
- Module Survey of the Population
The Module Survey of the Population inquires about the domestic and outbound trips made by Estonian population. The other part of the survey focuses on visiting cultural establishments. Face-to-face interviewing as well as phone interviewing is used in this survey.
- Financial Behaviour and Consumption Habits Survey of Estonian Households
This is a completely new survey which collects data on monetary resources, loans and assets of households. Similar surveys are conducted in all euro zone countries by central banks of the states and the activity is co-ordinated by the European Central Bank. In Estonia the survey is carried out in co-operation with the Bank of Estonia and Statistics Estonia.
All surveys contain the same general background questions about the household and its members. Similar questions enable to connect and analyse the results of different surveys. Thus, already a few surveys enable us to get necessary information about the labour market, economic situation of households, income and poverty, etc.
How are people selected into the social surveys of Statistics Estonia?
Statistics Estonia gathers information from people and households by sample surveys. This means that only about 1% of the population is included in a particular survey. Data are collected from them and the results are expanded to the entire population. Thus, each person who happens to fall into the survey represents about a hundred residents of Estonia. People are randomly picked for the survey: the choice is made by a computer programme on the basis of the Population Register data. Falling into the sample is like winning in a lottery: some people are lucky winners, some are not.
How often are social surveys organised?
Some surveys of Statistics Estonia are conducted every year in order to obtain a constant flow of necessary official statistics. The rest are organised with an interval of a certain amount of years. The last mentioned surveys focus on topics that do not manifest changes all that rapidly. Still, we do our best to ensure that a person already included in one of Statistics Estonia’s social surveys does not fall into other social surveys conducted by us over the next five years. This helps to save our respondents’ time. As a result of the success of the web interview during the Population and Housing Census, Statistics Estonia plans to start conducting also other social surveys using this convenient and time-saving method.
How can people know that they have to do with a social survey of Statistics Estonia?
Statistics Estonia conducts social surveys by following a precise procedure. Before the survey begins, all the people included in the sample are sent a contact letter introducing the purpose of the survey and informing the respondent about who and in which way will contact them. The person arriving to hold the interview is an interviewer who has completed prior training. The person who has been included in the survey has a right to ask to see the interviewer’s employment certificate at any time.
Is it compulsory to participate in the surveys of Statistics Estonia?
Participation in the surveys of Statistics Estonia is voluntary. Since we are the only operator of state surveys, we rely on people’s civic duty – the state must help its people and the people must help their state. Every individual’s situation and course of life are unique, therefore no other person can substitute the one fallen into the survey. A person has a right to refuse to participate in a survey, but if they do, one piece of the whole picture is irreparably lost. By answering the survey, each respondent contributes so that the state can rely on true and reliable information when taking decisions that influence all of us.
How does Statistics Estonia guarantee the confidentiality of respondents?
Your name and address are known only to the interviewer and the interviewer’s supervisor. The data collected will be made generic and nobody’s data will be viewed individually. Statistics Estonia guarantees protection of all data of respondents in accordance with the Official Statistics Act and Personal Data Protection Act. In case of interest you can familiarise yourself with these legal acts more precisely in the electronic State Gazette.
What are the main results of social surveys?
Social surveys focus mainly on observing the people and households, thus the most important results are received about household and the topics related to them. Household is a group of persons living in the common main dwelling (at the same address) who share joint financial and/or food resources and whose members consider themselves to belong to the same household.
As of 2010, there are on average 600,000 households in Estonia and the average number of members per household is 2.3. The average number of children below 18 years of age in a household is 0.4. Urban households are slightly smaller (on an average 0.3 children below 18) than rural households (on an average 0.4 children below 18). 70% of households live in urban areas and 30% in rural areas. The number of households with one member and two members is the biggest (37% and 30%, respectively).
The share of households with a single parent accounts for 7%. Most households are with one working member (38%), also the proportion of pensioner households is quite big (25%). The share of households with two and more children among all households has continuously decreased throughout the years.
Where do households live?
According to the data of 2010, nearly 70% of households live in apartments and over 80% are owners of their own dwelling. The floor area per household member is on average 36 square metres and there are 1.5 rooms per household member. The dwellings in rural areas are bigger than in urban areas. Single persons and elderly people have more space than households with children. Larger dwellings are located in Lääne county, also in Hiiu and Viljandi county.
Main expenditure of households
The size and share of different expenditure of the household’s total expenditure is changing in time and the expenditure as well as the income reflect people’s quality of life. Households spend the most – nearly a fourth of the household budget – on food. If in 2011 food expenditure accounted for 28% of the total expenditure, then over ten years ago the expenditure on food was even bigger – 32%. Among food expenditure, the most is spent on meat products, fish is consumed modestly, and the share of expenditure on dairy products and cereals is also big. Since 2007, people have started to spend less on meat products, fish and fruit, but the expenditure on dairy products, cereals and sweets has slightly increased.
Housing-related expenditure is the second largest expenditure group. If at the beginning of 2000 expenditure on housing accounted for 15% of the budget and in 2007 even 14%, then in 2011 the housing expenditure has increased up to 17%. Housing expenditure has stayed quite stable throughout the years.
Share of the main expenditure (%) per household member in the total expenditure, 2000, 2003, 2007, 2010, 2011
In 2009 and 2010, great changes took place in the Estonian labour market because of the worldwide financial and economical crisis. Employment, which had been increasing continuously since 2001, decreased sharply by dropping in 2009 to the level of 2004 and in 2010 down to the level recorded during the previous economic crisis ten years ago. In 2011 the situation improved. The unemployment rate fell from 16.9% to 12.5% during the year. In Estonia, unemployment decreased faster than on average in the European Union (EU) and Estonia improved its place among countries in the ranking of unemployment rate. If in 2010, unemployment was bigger than in Estonia only in Latvia, Lithuania and Spain, then in 2011 there were seven such countries: Spain, Latvia, Lithuania, Greece, Ireland, Slovakia and Portugal.
The situation in the labour market in Estonia began to improve again starting from the 2nd quarter of 2010. The number of unemployed persons which had grown to a record-high level (137,000) in the 1st quarter of 2010, started to decline rapidly. In the 2nd quarter of 2012 the unemployed numbered 71,000.
Above all, the economic crisis caused unemployment to increase among men. As the decline in employment was deeper in economic activities and occupations where relatively more men than women are employed, the number of employed men decreased more than that of women. In 2009, nearly two thirds of the unemployed were men. But since 2010 the general unemployment rate has fallen just due to the decrease of the unemployment among men and the difference in men’s and women’s unemployment rates has become quite small again. If in 2009 the unemployment rate of men was 16.9% (6.3% higher than that of women), then in 2011 the difference decreased to 1.3%. Men’s unemployment rate was 13.1% and women’s 11.8%.
Unemployment rate by sex, 2000–2011
In 2010 the income of the population decreased and the annual average unemployment grew. Transfers (state benefits and pensions) helped to keep people from falling into poverty, because without transfers, in 2010 the at-risk-of-poverty rate was even 41.1% (in 2009 – 40.8%).
In 2010, the share of younger persons living in relative poverty increased and the share of persons aged 65 and older in relative poverty decreased. This was caused by high unemployment rate of persons in the younger age group and more stable income of pension-aged people compared to other age groups.
Where are the results of social surveys published?
Statistics collected through surveys are primarily published in the Statistical Database on the website www.stat.ee.
More thorough analyses can be found in the following publications of Statistics Estonia:
- "Eesti statistika aastaraamat. Statistical Yearbook of Estonia"
- Eesti Statistika Kvartalikiri. Quarterly Bulletin of Statistics Estonia
- "Eesti rahvastiku ajakasutus. Time Use of Estonian Population"
- "Mehe kodu on maailm, naise maailm on kodu? Man’s Home is the World, Woman’s World is her Home?"
- "Sotsiaaltrendid. Social Trends"
- "Vaesus Eestis. Poverty in Estonia"
The publications of Statistics Estonia are electronically available free of charge on the website www.stat.ee. One can also order publications via the website. It is also possible to read the publications in the Information Centre of Statistics Estonia (15 Endla St, Tallinn).
We announce releases of new data or publications with news releases which are often reflected in the media, too.
The mission of Statistics Estonia
The main task of Statistics Estonia is to provide the central government and local governments, business and research sectors, international organisations and individuals with reliable and objective information service on the environmental, demographic, social and economic situation and trends in Estonia.
The year 1921 marks the birth of Estonian statistics. Ever since the early years, production of statistics has focused on society’s needs while keeping in mind international recommendations and agreements.
Where can one get additional information about the social surveys of Statistics Estonia?
In Statistics Estonia, the unit responsible for conducting social surveys is the Social Surveys Service. Additional information can be obtained either by phone +372 625 9220 or by e-mail urve dot kask at stat dot ee.
Come and work as an interviewer!
In communication with the general population, we are first and foremost represented by our interviewers. 58 interviewers who have undergone special training are on the payroll of Statistics Estonia. We interview approximately 40,000 households in their homes every year. As the need to know the actual situation and satisfaction of Estonia’s residents constantly grows, so does the need for surveys. There are many ways to collaborate – the most important of these is of course to take part in Statistics Estonia’s surveys, but we also offer work for interviewers. More detailed information: Ms. Heidi Pellmas, tel. +372 625 9142.
Statistics are not dull!
Statistics say that if a half of population eats cabbage and another half eats meat, then by calculating the average, we get a result that the population eats stuffed cabbage leaves.
It has been proved that celebrating birthdays is healthy. Statistics show that people who celebrate the biggest number of birthdays, live the longest life.
A very angry man bursts in the news editorial office. “It is a dirty trick to write in the newspaper that in Narva-Jõesuu (a resort in North-eastern Estonia) there are two women per every man. Now my wife wants to know the name of this other woman!”