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Internal Migration and Regional Population Dynamics in Europe: Estonia Case Study

By K. Katus, M. Kuoiszewski, P. Rees, L. Sakkeus, A. Herm and D. Powell


Estonia has experienced a long-lasting and strong influence of international migration on regional population growth. Post-war immigrants account for about 36 per cent of the total population, and are concentrated in larger cities of Northern Estonia. Regionally, the relative proportions of the native-born and immigrant origin sub-populations are important for the understanding of population change and internal migration flows in the 1980-1990s. \ud In Estonia, the quality of migration data requires careful assessment. The preservation of Soviet-type record-keeping has reduced data quality in the 1990s, already low, and use of the data should keep data quality problems in mind. Otherwise, false conclusions can be reached. \ud To describe internal migration patterns, it has proved technically feasible and very useful to disaggregate the county population into rural and urban components, and correspondingly, the migration flows into four directions (urban-urban, urban-rural, rural-urban and rural-rural). \ud During the 1980s the pattern of population growth and internal migration has changed in Estonia. Reflecting the turnaround in long-term population processes, migration development reached the advanced stage with more or less regionally balanced in- and out-migration flows and decreasing importance of net migration. Accordingly, to understand current trends and patterns, explanations must be sought from the 1980s which has served a starting point for the present trends rather than from the period of economic transition in the 1990s. \ud As a part of the turnaround, the century-long persistent rural depopulation has come to an end and the moderate growth has started reflecting natural population increase as well as deurbanization. In the 1980s two developments have occurred in parallel: migratory increase of rural population led by a deurbanizing native-born population, and continued urban population growth as a result of the population momentum of pre-transition immigrants. In future decades, the urban deconcentration will probably be the underlying trend in Estonia. In Estonia, noticeable proportion of territory and population is located in islands. However, the island population does not show any systematic difference in the type of internal migration. Particularly, the depopulation of island populations, observed in several comparable European cases, is not occurring. \ud Each life-course stage was found to have its specific migration pattern, more stable than the pattern for the total population. In many cases the changes of internal migration are determined by the change in the proportion of population in different life-course stages. Additionally, the life-course approach has been useful in demonstrating the features of the present Estonian internal migration pattern which appear closer to the countries of comparable in demographic development, more or less regardless of the significant differences in the level of economic development. Among life-course groups, in Estonia the older working age population was characterized by the strongest deurbanization intensities in 1995. The same group has also undergone the largest modification of migration pattern during the economic transition (1987-1995)

Publisher: School of Geography
Year: 1998
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