The Estonian Labour Force Survey is based on the definitions devised by the International Labour Organisation that enable us to compare the collected data to other countries.

Discouraged persons — non-working persons who would like to work and would be available for work as soon as there was work, but who are not actively seeking work because they do not believe in the chance of finding any.

Economically active population / labour force — persons who wish and are able to work (total of employed and unemployed persons).

Economically passive / inactive population — persons who do not wish or are not able to work.

Employed a person who during the reference period

- worked and was paid as a wage earner, entrepreneur or a free-lancer;

- worked without direct payment in a family enterprise or on his / her own farm;

- was temporarily absent from work.

Employment rate — the share of the employed in the working-age population.

Labour force participation rate / activity rate — the share of the labour force (total number of the employed and unemployed) in the working-age population.

Long-term health problem long-term (6 months or longer) illness or disability.

Part-time worker — an employed person whose usual working time per week is less than 35 hours, except the occupations where a shortened working time is prescribed by the law.

Primary sector — agriculture, hunting, forestry, fishing.

Rural settlements — include small towns and villages.

Secondary sector — mining, manufacturing, electricity, gas and water supply, construction.

Tertiary sector — trade, services, etc.

Underemployed — part-time worker who is willing to work additional hours and is currently (in the course of two weeks) available for it.

Unemployed a person who fulfils the following three conditions:

- he or she is without work (does not work anywhere at the moment and is not temporarily absent from work);

- he or she is currently (in the course of two weeks) available for work if there should be work;

- he or she is actively seeking work.

Unemployment rate — the share of the unemployed in the labour force.

Urban settlements include cities, cities without municipal status and towns.

Working-age / labour-age population — the part of the population that is used as the basis when examining the economic activity of the population, or in other words, the population of the age that is the object of a labour force survey (population between the ages of 15 and 74).


The Statistical Office of Estonia conducted the first Labour Force Survey at the beginning of 1995 (ELFS 95). In 1997–1999 the survey was conducted in the 2nd quarter. Starting from the year 2000 the survey is a continuous survey providing quarterly and annual results. The reference weeks for the households in the sample are spread uniformly throughout the whole year, e.g. for every week of the year same number of interviews is done.

Until the 2nd quarter of 2000, the questionnaire of ELFS consisted of two parts:

        the part of the reference week in which the data were collected about the week preceding the survey;

         the retrospective part in which the data were collected about the changes of work in the years preceding the survey.

The quarterly results are received on the basis of continuous survey since the 1st quarter of 2000, but in the 1st and 2nd quarters the retrospective data were collected for the year 1999, as the survey was conducted in the 2nd quarter only. Since the 3rd quarter of 2000, the retrospective data are not collected. It is not necessary as the survey is conducted continuously. The annual averages are calculated as arithmetical mean of quarters.

The 1989 Population Census database served as a sample frame in 1995, in 1997–2001 the population database of the Andmevara Ltd (population register), in 2002–2004 the 2000 Population and Housing Census database and since 2005 population register is used.

The target population of the survey are the working-age residents of Estonia (aged 15–74). Up to 2002, the respondents were classified as falling in or out of the working age population only according to the year of birth: the working age population is the population between the ages of 15 and 74 on 1 January of the reference year. Since 2002, the date of birth is taken into account then calculating the age of the respondent: the working age population is the population between the ages of 15 and 74 in the reference week.

As since 2002 the age of the respondent is calculated according to the date of birth the data for age group “16 until pension age” are exactly calculated as well. Before 2002 the pension age was calculated only in full-years. Pension age used in the ELFS is presented in the following table.


Age, years
































The data of the ELFS 95 and ELFS 97 survey week are based on the population who on 1 January of the survey year were 15–74 years old and the data in the retrospective part also covers the same part of the population who were in different age groups in the previous years. Thus, in order to guarantee the comparability of the data of different years and the usual presentation of the data in 5-year age groups, the retrospectively collected data for 1990–1996 have been presented for the population aged 15–69.

Starting from 1998 to the 2nd quarter of 2000, 75-year-old people are interviewed as well. Thus, the retrospective data for 1997–1999 were collected about the population aged 15–74. In the data for 1997–2000 all persons aged over 74 are considered as inactive, in the case of earlier years inactive are all those aged over 69.

The expansion of the data of the Labour Force Survey is based on the estimated population of 1 January of the reference year. The expansion coefficients have been calculated according to county, sex and 5-year age groups. In current database, the Labour Force Survey data for 1990–2001 have been revised. In recalculations, revised population numbers for the years between 1989 and 2000 Population Censuses have been used.

All the data presented are estimates of actual parameters. The estimates that are based on less than 20 persons of the sample have not been published (in tables the symbol “..”) as not sufficiently reliable.

Due to rounding, the total sums in tables are not always equal with the total. The difference can be up to some last decimal places.


Statistical Classification of Regional Units of Estonia  

The regional division used is based on the Statistical Classification of Regional Units of Estonia. The data are published by the following regions:



Northern Estonia

Harju county


Western Estonia

Hiiu, Lääne, Pärnu and Saare counties


Central Estonia

Järva, Lääne-Viru and Rapla counties


Northeastern Estonia

Ida-Viru county


Southern Estonia

Jõgeva, Põlva, Tartu, Valga, Viljandi and Võru counties


Estonian Classification of Economic Activities (EMTAK 2003) based on NACE, Rev. 1.1 


Agriculture, hunting and forestry

A 01

Agriculture, hunting and related service activities

A 02

Forestry, logging and related service activities




Mining and quarrying




Manufacture of food products, beverages and tobacco


Manufacture of textiles


Manufacture of wearing apparel; dressing and dyeing of fur


Manufacture of leather and leather products


Manufacture of wood and wood products


Manufacture of pulp, paper and paper products; publishing and printing


Manufacture of coke, refined petroleum products and nuclear fuel


Manufacture of chemicals, chemical products and man-made fibres


Manufacture of rubber and plastic products


Manufacture of other non-metallic mineral products


Manufacture of basic metals and fabricated metal products


Manufacture of machinery and equipment n.e.c.


Manufacture of electrical and optical equipment


Manufacture of transport equipment


Manufacturing n.e.c.


Electricity, gas and water supply




Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles and personal and household goods

G 50

Sale, maintenance and repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles; retail sale of automotive fuel

G 51

Wholesale trade and commission trade, except of motor vehicles and motorcycles

G 52

Retail trade, except of motor vehicles and motorcycles; repair of personal and household goods


Hotels and restaurants


Transport, storage and communication

I 60

Land transport; transport via pipelines

I 61

Water transport

I 62

Air transport

I 63

Supporting and auxiliary transport activities; activities of travel agencies

I 64

Post and telecommunications


Financial intermediation


Real estate, renting and business activities


Public administration and defence; compulsory social security




Health and social work


Other community, social and personal service activities


Activities of households


Extra-territorial organizations and bodies



Used groups


Manufacture of coke, refined petroleum products, chemicals and chemical products

I 60 – I 63

Transport and supporting transport activities

O, P, Q

Other economic activities



Educational levels according to ISCED 97 codes

 Below upper secondary education  0-2

less than primary education  0, primary education  1

basic education  2A

vocational education for youngsters without basic education  2C

Upper secondary education  3

general secondary education  3A

vocational secondary education based on basic education  3B

professional secondary education based on basic education  3A

vocational training based on basic education  3C

Post-secondary non-tertiary education  4

vocational secondary education based on secondary education  4B

Tertiary education  5-6

academic higher education (Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree)  5A

professional higher education (professional higher education, diploma study, vocational higher education)  5B

professional secondary education based on secondary education  5B

Doctor’al degree  6


Eesti statistika aastaraamat. Statistical Yearbook of Estonia.

Eesti piirkondlik statistika. Regional Statistics of Estonia. Yearbook

Tööturg. Labour Market. Yearbook


Eveli Voolens

Population and Social Statistics Department

Tel +372 625 9334

Updated:  20.11.2019