Population census. More people of retirement age in employment than ever before

Posted on 15 December 2022, 8:00

Census data show that 58% of the population was employed at the end of 2021, which is 6 percentage points more than 10 years ago. The increase is mainly due to persons of retirement age, but also slightly to the unemployed and students.

Terje Trasberg, leading analyst at Statistics Estonia, said that the employment rate has risen due to the young people born during the baby boom entering the labour market as well as people of retirement age. “The reason for the increase in the employment rate is that young people born during the baby boom of the re-independence era have reached the main working age. Also, despite the ageing of the population, the share of people living on pensions has fallen. This has been affected by a variety of factors, such as the increase in retirement age, better health of older people, employers' favourable attitude towards older workers, but also by labour shortages, in education for example,” noted Trasberg, adding that it is, in fact, the field of education that employs the largest share of people of retirement age.

Recent census data reveal a steady increase in the share of wages or salaries as the main source of subsistence compared with previous censuses. In 2000, wages were the main source of subsistence for 46% of people over the age of 15, and for 48% in 2011, rising to 54% in 2021. The share of people maintained by other persons has decreased at a similar pace, from 15% in 2000 to 12% in 2011 and 7% in 2021.

The share of pension as the main source of subsistence has declined over the past 10 years, despite an increase in the number of older people. 5% of people aged 65 and over lived on a wage or salary in 2011, whereas in 2021, 10% did so.

6% of men are entrepreneurs compared with just 3% of women

Across all people aged 15 and over, the share of the employed is 4 percentage points higher for men (60% for men, 56% for women), but this is because women have a longer life expectancy, meaning that among women, there are more people of retirement age who are no longer working. Between the ages of 15 and 64, there are more women in employment (73%) than men (68%), with the largest difference recorded in the 50–64 age group (78% vs 70%).

According to the census, there are 642,391 employed people in Estonia. The majority of the employed, 96%, are salaried employees in their main place of work, whereas 4% are entrepreneurs. There are more entrepreneurs among employed men than among women, accounting for 6% of all employed men. 97% of women are salaried employees and entrepreneurship is the main activity for only 3%.

The Estonian labour market also continues to be characterised by gender segregation by branch of economic activity as well as by occupation. 4.1% of men are employed in the primary sector (agriculture, hunting, forestry, fishing), compared with only 1.7% of women. 37.7% of men and 16% of women work in the industrial sector. The service sector employs 58.2% of men and as many as 82.3% of women.

Women are in the majority in social work (86%), education (83%), and human health (75%) activities. Men predominate in construction (89%) and mining and quarrying (85%). In rural settlement regions, the difference between men's and women's jobs is greater than in city and town settlement regions.

14% of people work outside their county of residence

The 2021 census shows that the main place of work of 99.7% of Estonia’s employed inhabitants is in Estonia. Only 0.3%, or 1,651 people, work abroad, 75% of them men and 25% women. 

61.5% of people working in Estonia are employed in the municipality where they live, while 24.5% work in their county of residence but in a different municipality. Therefore, 86% of people's place of work is within the same county as their place of residence. The remaining 14% travel out of the county to work if they have not found a way to work from home. Women generally work a little closer to home than men – only 12% of women are employed outside their county of residence, compared with 17% of men.

The majority of workplaces are located in big cities, mainly Tallinn and Tartu. 43% of all employed people work in the capital (up from 39% in the previous census), but a third of those working in Tallinn do not live there. As many as a fifth (21%) of non-Tallinn residents work in Tallinn. 9.2% of all employed people work in Tartu, and 57% of them also live there. The remaining 43% reside outside the city limits, but mainly in the surrounding rural municipalities.

Less than half of the population in Ida-Viru and Valga counties are employed

As expected, the highest employment rates are found in Harju (62%) and Tartu (60%) counties, where the majority of jobs and students preparing to enter the labour market are located. The share of people in employment is highest in the rural municipalities around Tallinn and Tartu, in the so-called town settlement regions, reaching 70%. The lowest employment rates are seen in Ida-Viru (48%) and Valga (50%) counties, as well as in other rural regions where the population is older and the share of native Russian speakers is higher.

For more information on the economic activity, main sources of subsistence, and labour migration of the population, visit rahvaloendus.ee.

The results are based on data collected in the register-based census and are published in the statistical database. Census data do not reflect the most recent changes in the labour force. Short-term labour market statistics are published in a separate application.

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For further information:

Helen Maria Raadik
Media Relations Manager

Marketing and Dissemination Department
Statistics Estonia
Tel +372 625 9181

press [at] stat.ee