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Why are these particular questions asked during the census?

The census is used to collect data, which enable to obtain a comprehensive overview of Estonian population, dwellings and living conditions. The questions were chosen in cooperation with the principal users of data – public authorities, researchers, local governments and businesses. The data collected with the census enable to develop important policies and decisions for society on the basis of the most recent information on the needs of society. In order to obtain as detailed information as possible, the census is exhaustive – it means that all permanent residents of Estonia are interviewed, and all dwellings are enumerated.

Address of the place of usual residence
Estonian dialects (local language forms)
Ethnicity, mother tongue and citizenship
First and last name, personal identification code
Foreign language skills
Highest completed level of education
Information on long-term illnesses or health problems and health-related restrictions
Location of the place of work
Migration questions
Number of children born
Place of birth
Questions on employment (area of activity, occupation, employment status)
Questions on dwelling (type, occupancy, number of rooms, type of ownership, area, amenities)
Questions on marital status (legal and actual), household composition and blood relationship
Questions on places of birth of parents and grandparents
Question on religion
Question on the sources of subsistence
Secondary place of residence, its location and the duration of stay in there
Sex and age/date of birth

Address of the place of usual residence is important information for describing the distribution of population on the country’s territory. Every local government needs information on the actual number, age, etc., of inhabitants in the city / rural municipality. This enables to make decisions on required infrastructure developments, i.e., whether to build nursery schools or care homes, or whether to make efforts to facilitate entrepreneurship and creation of jobs to accommodate a large number of working-age people. For regional policy purposes, it would be important to know, which settlements are growing, which are at risk of dying out, which locations are in need of new roads or other infrastructures, etc. In order to collect accurate information, the census question concerns the place of actual residence, not the registered place of residence (registered address). The registered and actual places of residence are often different. The census data are only used for statistical purposes; it means that the registration of the place of residence in the population register will not be changed as a result of the census.

Estonian dialects (local language forms) are included in the census questionnaire for the first time. This information is of particular interest for representatives of local traditional cultures, e.g., Seto people. The aim is to determine the usage levels of various local forms of Estonian language and the number of people who are able to speak them. An overview of the number and distribution of the bearers of traditional culture provides an opportunity for developing and supporting respective programmes.

Ethnicity, mother tongue and citizenship are important indicators for assessing the size of ethnic minorities and the number of foreign nationals permanently living in Estonia. In order to cater for the needs of different ethnic groups, we need information on their geographic distribution, living conditions, age, education, language skills, etc. This information helps to develop various educational and social services. Citizenship information is also included in the population register, but linking citizenship information with census data enables to obtain information on employment, Estonian language skills, education, living conditions, etc., of people with different citizenships. This information will then be useful for developing necessary services to ensure well-being for all members of society. For most people, the answers on citizenship and mother tongue are pre-filled on the basis of data from the population register or the census of 2000.

First and last name, personal identification code are important for identification in the process of collecting and processing census data. These data prevent double enumeration of one and the same person in Estonia’s population. As it is possible to answer questions on behalf of another person during the census, some people can be enumerated on multiple occasions. Such multiple enumerations are identified during the process of data organisation, so that each person is counted only once.
In addition, names and personal identification codes are required to supplement census data with data from registers or the data collected during the Population and Housing Census of 2000. Any data enabling personal identification are used only in those stages of data processing where it is unavoidable. Following that, these data will be removed from the database.

Foreign language skills are an important educational indicator, affecting opportunities on the labour market. This question will also provide information on Estonian language skills of different ethnic groups.

Highest completed level of education is an important indicator for planning the development of educational institutions and adult education. Data on the level of education are also helpful for the development of entrepreneurship, because business operators need information on availability of suitable workforce in the projected location of their business. Information on the level of education of the population is required for planning admission to universities and vocational schools, for preparing curricula and for developing criteria for state-commissioned education. Unlike in the previous census, people are not asked about their studies, because this information is taken from the Estonian Education Information System.

Information on long-term illnesses or health problems and health-related restrictions is important for clarifying the health status of Estonia’s population. This would help to reveal health problems, which have not been registered as disabilities. Population health information is useful for developing welfare and healthcare services in different regions, for regional policy planning, as well as for assessing development potential of different local governments.

Location of the place of work is an important piece of information because, by comparing it to the place of residence, we can draw conclusions on pendulum migration between place of work and place of residence. This is useful for planning public transportation, road networks, etc. This information also enables to estimate the size of ‘daytime population’ (the number of people, who only go to respective settlements on business days) in different settlements, which helps to project demand for services (transportation, schools, nursery schools, shopping, food establishments, etc.).

Migration questions (previous place of residence, residence outside Estonia, time of relocation to Estonia, place of residence in 2000) enable to collect information on internal and external migration. As people’s mobility has increased, there is greater focus on migration in the census of 2011. Data on internal migration are important for specifying the geographic distribution of population and obtaining and overview of migration directions. This facilitates assessment and planning of regional development (e.g., establishment of educational institutions, development of housing and social services, etc.).
The questions on migration will also indicate the number of Estonian inhabitants, who have returned to Estonia from abroad and from which countries people have come to live in Estonia. This will improve our understanding of the needs of society. Currently, we also do not have a sufficient overview of the number of people, who have gone to live abroad during the past decade and, therefore, respondents are asked about their close relatives who have left Estonia in the last ten years.
For many people, the answers on the place of residence are pre-filled with the data from the census of 2000.

Number of children born is required to obtain an overview of birth rate, which can be then used for population forecasts and generation of information on population development. It enables to assess changes in society (e.g., ageing of population) and to develop important policies. A comparison of the number of children born to women in different age groups will clarify the maternity behaviour of different generations.

Place of birth (mother’s place of residence at the time of the respondent’s birth) provides important information on the origin of Estonia’s inhabitants. Estonia’s population is very diverse and information on their origins helps to accommodate their different needs. In case of people born in Estonia, it is important to know the city or rural municipality of their birth. This indicates the intensity of internal migration – how many people and in what age have left their place of birth, what are the main directions of movement, what are the regions where people tend to remain in place and for what reasons.
As the population register often indicates the location of the hospital as the place of birth, which does not show the actual origin of the people (e.g., it does not reveal how many people came from rural areas, because hospitals are located in cities), the data on places of birth cannot be taken from the population register. The country of birth is pre-filled with data from the population register.

Questions on employment (area of activity, occupation, employment status) are required to obtain comprehensive information on Estonian employment rate and economic development. It is important for preparing economic projections and developing various employment and social policies and programmes. The geographic and age distribution (length of time remaining on the labour market) of people with different skills is useful for development of entrepreneurship. In case of the unemployed with previous work experience, it is important to collect information on their last occupation and area of activity. Together with data on education, language skills, etc., this will provide an overview of available workforce with specific skill sets in different regions, enabling to find new ways for economic restructuring. Information on changes in labour requirements in different fields and on the occupations that are likely to be in demand or superfluous in the future is important for developing economic policies and criteria for state-commissioned education. Employment level is determined according to the methodology of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), using four questions. In isolation, these questions may seem peculiar, but this set of questions provides exact information on a person’s employment status.

Questions on dwelling (type, occupancy, number of rooms, type of ownership, area, amenities) are important for assessing the condition of buildings and dwellings and the need for improving the quality of dwellings and for developing new housing. Linking the data on dwellings with the data on respective households will enable assessments of the living conditions of households – the size, occupancy density (privacy) and comfort of Estonian homes. This information is important for planning residential developments, estimating the need for renovation, and planning any other activities to increase the standard of living. There are also many vacant dwellings in Estonia, which enumerators cannot access – the owners of such dwellings are asked to list these dwellings as well during the census. The exact address of dwelling is required to avoid double enumeration of dwellings.

Questions on marital status (legal and actual), household composition and blood relationship provide a necessary overview of the structure of Estonian households, families and marital statuses. The number of couples living in registered marriages has decreased and many children are born to parents in unregistered marriages. Consequently, we would need to know the number of people living with a partner in order to predict population developments. The number of families with children and the number of single persons, incl. single elderly persons, are important indicators for planning various social services (e.g., child benefits and family allowances, welfare services, childcare services, etc.). Information on the size of households is important for planning housing developments. As the data on registered marital status is included in the population register, these fields are pre-filled in the census questionnaires for many people. The data on the actual marital status (i.e., whether a person lives with a partner or not) will be derived from the answers to the questions on the relationships between household members and, therefore, no separate question is asked on the type of cohabitation.

Questions on places of birth of parents and grandparents are required to obtain information on the number of native inhabitants and immigrants in Estonia. Estonia has a large share of immigrant population, compared to other European countries, and development of various policies should, therefore, consider the needs of both native inhabitants and immigrants. The places of birth of parents and grandparents are pre-filled in the census questionnaires for many people, based on the data from the census of 2000 or from the population register.

Question on religion is required to collect information on religious affiliation of Estonia’s inhabitants. Estonians are generally quite non-religious. The question on religion helps to find out whether attitudes towards religion have changed over time (e.g., whether there are any differences between younger and older generations). A census is the only opportunity to collect information on the current prevalence of religions other than traditional Christianity in Estonia. This enables to develop support programmes for different religions and cultures.

Question on the sources of subsistence provides information on the number of people, who live on wages, pensions, benefits or other sources. This information is required for planning economic and social policies.

Secondary place of residence, its location and the duration of stay in there are data categories that are used for the first time in the census questionnaire. This is important, because having another place of residence in addition to the place of usual residence is a growing trend. The data on the secondary place of residence enable to assess temporary settlement density of a region and mobility of the people. Settlements, where the number of inhabitants fluctuates over certain periods, have to be managed in a different way than settlements with a stable number of inhabitants. The question on secondary place of residence provides information on the regions, where people tend to stay and use services on a temporary basis. This will also reveal the number of persons who have a secondary place of residence in a foreign country.

Sex and age/date of birth are the most important indicators, which are always surveyed during a census. The same data can be derived from personal identification codes but, due to the importance of these indicators, there are separate questions for personal identification code, sex and age. This helps to prevent possible errors when filling in questionnaires. Information on gender and age distribution of population enables to develop population forecasts, i.e., to predict the size of Estonia’s population after 10, 50 or 100 years. Furthermore, it enables to assess the ageing of population and to estimate the future ratio of pensioners and employed persons, for instance. Exact information on the gender and age distribution is also important for calculating birth rate indicators, average life expectancy, average healthy life expectancy and other important indicators characterising population development. These indicators, in turn, can be then used for planning various services in healthcare, education and other fields.

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