Resident in Finland, or in Estonia? That's the question
For census purposes, some of the Estonians who work and live permanently in Finland were still counted as being among the Estonian population
By Kaja Kunnas
If a person lives in two countries, among which country's population should he or she be counted?
For example the Estonian house-painter and father Raitti Nõurus, 31, who drove his Mazda off a Tallinn ferry and into Helsinki earlier this week?
Nõurus had been in Pärnu, spending his four-day break at home.
Upon arrival in Finland, he was to have about ten working days ahead in the Helsinki region. He has had this kind of schedule for many years, shuttling between Estonia and Finland.
”I was counted among the Estonian residents. I am sure about that, as I filled in the census form myself on the Net”, Nõurus says.
”In terms of time, I spend most of my year in Finland, but on the other hand my life is in Estonia”, he points out.
While in Pärnu, Nõurus lives with his wife and four-year-old son in a detached house.
In Finland, he lives with three other workmen in a two-room flat in the neighbourhood of Myyrmäki in Vantaa.
When Nõurus registered himself as a citizen of Estonia, he followed precisely the principles of the Estonian population census.
”If a person works in one country, but his or her home and family are in another country, he is counted among the population of the country in which he spends more than half of his free time. This is the general international practice”, says Professor Ene-Margit Tiit from the University of Tartu, who has planned the census method.
Some people have also been counted among the Estonian population, even though they spend most of their time in Finland - and are even officially registered in this country.
According to the authorities, the purpose of the census was not to exaggerate artificially the Estonian population, which is declining to threateningly low levels.
The intention was to survey people’s factual places of residence, which do not always tally with the official address.
People may get registered outside their home, hoping to get better benefits.
For this reason, the population census regarded people’s word as more reliable than the officiel register.
”The entire population census is based on confidence. What an individual says is believed”, Professor Tiit says.
According to Ene-Margit Tiit, the objective is to compare at some later stage whether the place of residence that an individual has stated in his or her census form tallies with their official registration.
The population has declined in Estonia more slowly than in the other Baltic countries.
One reason for this is the fact that most Estonians visit Finland only to work, and it is a short hop across the Gulf to go back for the weekend.
Previously, Raitti Nõurus worked - and lived permanently - in Great Britain. He came to work in Finland, as he started a family in Estonia and wanted to work closer to his family.
Those who shuttle back and forth (and there are plenty of them) do not always even know themselves in which country they actually "live".
Mechanic Mati Reis is a case in point. Reis, 58, who shuttles between Helsinki’s Vuosaari and the City of Türi in Central Estonia, originally came to Finland for a six-month gig. That was ten years ago.
In Helsinki he lives in a one-room flat as a bachelor.
In Estonia, Mati Reis has a wife, three children, and one grandchild.
Reis is not sure whether he was counted among the Estonian population or not.
His wife filled in the population census form on the Internet, and he has to make a quick Skype call to Estonia in order to get clarification on the matter.
”So... do I belong to those 1.3 milllion who were counted among the Estonian population?” he asks.
”Well, I could choose whether my husband is in Estonia or elsewhere. I marked that you are elsewhere”, Mati Reis’s wife replies.
In other words, Mati Reis was not counted among the Estonian population.
FACTFILE: The Estonian population has declined
According to the preliminary data from a recent population census, Estonia’s population stands at 1,294,000 people.
The population has declined by 5% or by 76,000 people compared with the previous census in 2000. The figures for population loss in Latvia and Lithuania are starker still. Latvia saw a 13% fall in its population between 2000 and 2011, and in Lithuania over roughly the same period the numbers went down from nearly 3.5 million to less than 3.2 million.
About 889,000 people were registered as Estonian, while 321,000 people or one-fourth of the population were registered as Russian.
The population has declined as a consequence of the low birth rate (well below replacement levels) and significant emigration abroad.
The population census was carried out early this year. The representative of each household filled in the census form online. Census takers paid a visit to those addresses where nobody had filled in the form.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 14.6.2012
Previously in HS International Edition:
City of Helsinki to check on payment of Estonian workers at city construction site (27.11.2009)
Estonian workers earn nice pensions from Finland (10.10.2011)
Between two countries: Estonian workers in Finland get a television series of their own (4.10.2011)
Demographics of Estonia (Wikipedia)
KAJA KUNNAS / Helsingin Sanomat