The population of Estonia grew by 2%: immigration was the main contributor as births were at a record low

Posted on 18 January 2023, 8:00

According to the preliminary data of Statistics Estonia, on 1 January 2023, the population of Estonia was 1,357,739, which is 2% (25,943 persons) more than at the same time a year ago. In 2022, there were 11,588 births and 17,245 deaths in Estonia. Based on the data on registered migration, 42,022 persons immigrated to Estonia and 10,422 persons emigrated from Estonia. 75% (31,594) of the immigrants were from Ukraine.

Terje Trasberg, leading analyst at Statistics Estonia, said that 2022 was characterised by a record-low number of births and by the arrival of Ukrainian refugees. “The number of deaths remained high, although it was slightly smaller than in 2021. However, the number of births in 2022 was at an all-time low, with just 11,588 births registered last year. The registered number of births has never been under 12,000 in Estonia, according to available population statistics dating back to 1919.”

Despite the negative natural increase (−5,657 in 2022, −5,317 in 2021), the population of Estonia as at 1 January increased by 25,943, or 2%, compared with 1 January last year. “The population figure was boosted by immigration. The biggest impact can be attributed to Ukrainians who accounted for 75% of all immigrants in 2022,” noted Trasberg.

Births and deaths in Estonia, 1991–2022

Number of deaths still higher than before the pandemic

The number of deaths, which grew sharply in 2021 (18,587), decreased slightly in 2022 (17,245), but there were still almost 1,500 deaths more last year than in the pre-pandemic years. In the period 20102019, the average number of deaths was 15,545 per year, while in the years 20202022 the average number of deaths was 17,214 per year. The higher number of deaths is related to the impact of the coronavirus crisis as well as to the ageing population.

Number of births at an all-time low

11,588 births were registered in 2022. It is the lowest number of births since 1919, when comparable birth statistics were first published. The number of births has been in decline since the restoration of independence, not considering the slight uptrend at the end of 2000s. The number of births reached the lowest level in 1997–2001, when it was about 12,500 births per year.

“The women giving birth now were born in the 1990s, when the number of births was low. Therefore, in addition to other reasons, the low number of births is also due to the fact that the current young generation is smaller than the previous one,” explained Trasberg.

Birth rates are also affected by socio-political conditions in the country. 2021 was the height of the coronavirus pandemic in Estonia, and morbidity rate was the highest at the start of 2022[1]. Studies in other countries have also indicated a correlation between the pandemic and low birth rates[2]. For example, in Latvia, the number of births was at a record low in 2020 and 2021 (based on statistics available since 1920)[3].

Preliminary migration statistics are affected by refugees

According to the data on registered migration (from the Population Register), 42,022 persons immigrated to Estonia and 10,422 persons emigrated from Estonia in 2022. This means that net migration was positive, as there were 31,600 more persons staying than leaving Estonia. Both registered immigration and net migration were several times bigger than the average of recent years, due to the arrival of war refugees from Ukraine. There were 1,820 emigrants more than in 2021.

Based on citizenship, the largest number of immigrants settling in Estonia had Ukrainian citizenship (31,594). Ukrainians have been the largest group of immigrants already since 2018, but the number of Ukrainian immigrants has previously been much lower (2,374 in 2020, 3,047 in 2021). “There were 3,363 Estonian citizens returning to Estonia in 2022 – but Estonians often do not register their migration and thus the share of Estonian citizens among registered migrants is small. In 2022, there were 1,446 immigrants with Russian citizenship,” added Trasberg.

Women represented 60% of the immigrants. This is the first time in this century that the share of women among immigrants is greater than the share of men. In the last ten years, men have held the bigger share at a roughly 60:40 ratio. The bigger share of women in 2022 resulted from the immigration of Ukrainian refugees, as 64% of them were women.

Migration statistics will be revised  

“Unlike preliminary birth and death statistics, the preliminary statistics on migration are likely to be significantly revised, since the preliminary figures are based on the data of the Population Register where people often fail to change their data as they emigrate or immigrate. Statistics Estonia will supplement migration data with data on unregistered migration, and the revised data will be released in May,” added Trasberg.

Data on Ukrainians

The data on registered migration published here cover persons who immigrated to Estonia in the last year and who, as of 1 January 2023, had a place of residence in Estonia according to the Population Register. Therefore, these figures do not include, for example, those Ukrainian refugees who are staying in Estonia but have not registered a place of residence here.

In Estonia, data on Ukrainian war refugees are also collected by the Police and Border Guard Board, who publish the number of persons applying for temporary protection. Persons who have been granted temporary protection are included in the preliminary population figure only if they were residing in Estonia as at 1 January 2023 and had registered a place of residence in Estonia.

Statistics on war refugees are also published by the Social Insurance Board. According to their data, about 45.5% of war refugees transit through without settling in Estonia.

More detailed data have been published in the statistical database.

See also the population section on our website.


For further information:

Helen Maria Raadik
Media Relations Manager

Marketing and Dissemination Department
Statistics Estonia
Tel +372 625 9181


Photo: Shutterstock

[2] Pomar et al (2022), Impact of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic on birth rates in Europe: a time series analysis in 24 countries, Human Reproduction, Volume 37, Issue 12, pp 2921–2931,

[3] Birth statistics for Latvia: