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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 still ranks low in a large number of topics relative to most other countries in the Better Life Index.

Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In Estonia, the average household net-adjusted disposable income is 12 800 USD a year, less than the OECD average of 23 047 USD a year. But there is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earn five times as much as the bottom 20%.

In terms of employment, some 65% of people aged 15 to 64 in Estonia have a paid job, close to the OECD employment average of 66%. Some 68% of men are in paid work, compared with 63% of women, suggesting that women are able to successfully balance family and career. People in Estonia work 1 924 hours a year, more than the OECD average of 1 776 hours. Some 4% of employees work very long hours, much lower than the OECD average of 9%; about 6% of men work very long hours compared with 3% for women.

Having a good education is an important requisite for finding a job. In Estonia, 89% of adults aged 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, considerably higher than the OECD average of 74%. In contrast to most OECD countries, more women have completed high school, at 92%, compared with 86% for men. Estonia is a top-performing country in terms of the quality of its educational system. The average student scored 514 in reading literacy, maths and science in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). This score is 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 12 points, more than the average OECD gap of 9 points.

In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in Estonia is 76 years, 4 years lower than the OECD average of 80 years. Life expectancy for women is 81 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 micrograms per cubic meter, considerably lower than the OECD average of 21 micrograms per cubic meter. Estonia performs less well in terms of water quality, as 75% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water, below the OECD average of 84%.

Concerning the public sphere, there is a moderate sense of community and moderate levels of civic participation in Estonia, where 86% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, below the OECD average of 90%. Voter turnout, a measure of public trust in government and of citizens’ participation in the political process, was 64% in the most recent elections, below the OECD average of 72%.

In general, Estonians are less satisfied with their lives than the OECD average, with 69% of people saying they have more positive experiences in an average day (feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc). This figure is one of the lowest in the OECD, where the average is 80%.


OECD in Action

OECD Economic Outlook 2013: Estonia

This chapter on Estonia provides major economic trends and prospects for the next two years.

Read this chapter

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Estonia in Detail