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indicator value unit
Population 1.3 mil.
Visitors per year 1.6 mil.
Renewable energy 11.97 %

How’s Life?

Estonia has made progress over the last decade in terms of improving the quality of life of its citizens. Until the financial crisis of 2008, the economy had seen record-breaking growth.  Notwithstanding, Estonia performs well in only a few measures of well-being, relative to most other countries in the Better Life Index. Estonia ranks above the average in education and skills, environmental quality, and work-life balance, but below average in housing, jobs and earnings, subjective well-being, personal security, income and wealth, health status, and civic engagement.

Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In Estonia, the average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is USD 15 167 a year, less than the OECD average of USD 25 908 a year. But there is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earn more than five times as much as the bottom 20%.

In terms of employment, some 68% of people aged 15 to 64 in Estonia have a paid job, more than the OECD employment average of 65%. Some 71% of men are in paid work, compared with 66% of women. In Estonia, 3% of employees work very long hours, much lower than the OECD average of 13%; about 5% of men work very long hours compared with 2% for women.

Good education and skills are important requisites for finding a job. In Estonia, 90% of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education, much higher than the OECD average of 75% and among the highest rates in the OECD. This is truer of women than men, as 87% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 92% of women.. Estonia is a top-performing country in terms of the quality of its educational system. The average student scored 526 in reading literacy, maths and science in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). This score is much higher than the OECD average of 497, making Estonia one of the strongest OECD countries in students’ skills. On average in Estonia, girls outperformed boys by 14 points, more than the average OECD gap of 8 points.

In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in Estonia is 77 years, three years lower than the OECD average of 80 years. Life expectancy for women is 82 years, compared with 71 for men. The level of atmospheric PM10 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs –is 9.3 micrograms per cubic meter in large urban areas, considerably lower than the OECD average of 20.1 micrograms per cubic meter, and the lowest rate in the OECD. Estonia performs less well in terms of water quality, as 79% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water, below the OECD average of 81%.

Concerning the public sphere, there is a strong sense of community and moderate levels of civic participation in Estonia, where 89% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, slightly higher than the OECD average of 88%. Voter turnout, a measure of citizens’ participation in the political process, was 64% in the most recent elections, below the OECD average of 68%. Social and economic status can affect voting rates; voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is an estimated 68% and for the bottom 20% it is an estimated 56%, slightly narrower than the OECD average gap of 13 percentage points.

In general, Estonians are less satisfied with their lives than the OECD average. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Estonians gave it a 5.6 grade, one of the lowest scores in the OECD, where average life satisfaction is 6.6.

For more information on estimates and years of reference, see FAQ section and BLI database.


OECD in Action

OECD Economic Surveys: Estonia 2015

OECD's 2015 Economic Survey of Estonia examines recent economic developments, prospects and policy. Special chapters cover openness and raising productivity and making the most of human capital.

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Estonia in Detail