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.

Person with restricted ability to work due to long-term health problem – a person aged 15–64 for whom the kind or amount of work to be done or going to work is difficult due to long-term health problem.

Primary sector – agriculture, hunting, forestry, fishing.

Private sector – enterprises whose owner is Estonian or foreign person by private law.

Public sector – enterprises and organisations whose owner is state or local government.

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 as settlement units, 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, in 2005–2012 population register and since 2013 the 2011 Population and Housing Census database 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 in 1989–2016 is presented in the following table.


Age, years
















































Since 2017 the general pension age is 65 years. Transitional period is established for people born in 1954–1960. For them pension age will gradually increase by 3 months for every birth year and reach to 65 years in 2026.

Year reaching to pension age

Year of birth




63 years 3 months



63 years 6 months



63 years 9 months



64 years



64 years 3 months



64 years 6 months



64 years 9 months



65 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, for the Labour Force Survey data for 1990–1999 revised population numbers for the years between 1989 and 2000 Population Censuses have been used. The Labour Force Survey data for 2000–2013 have been adjusted using population numbers revised on the basis of 2011 Population Census and registers.

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.

Starting from the 1st quarter of 2015, Statistics Estonia will not publish the quarterly Labour Force Survey data on economic activities and occupations; the respective data will be published once a year. Statistics Estonia will continue to publish quarterly employment data by economic activity as part of business statistics, national accounts statistics and the statistics on job vacancies and labour turnover.


Classification of Estonian administrative units and settlements (EHAK)

EHAK is available on the web site of Statistics Estonia under the heading List of Classifications:

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, Lδδne, Pδrnu and Saare counties


Central Estonia

Jδrva, Lδδne-Viru and Rapla counties


Northeastern Estonia

Ida-Viru county


Southern Estonia

Jυgeva, Pυlva, Tartu, Valga, Viljandi and Vυru counties


Estonian Classification of Economic Activities (EMTAK 2008) based on NACE, Rev. 2


Agriculture, forestry and fishing

A 01

Crop and animal production, hunting and related service activities

A 02

Forestry and logging

A 03

Fishing and aquaculture


Mining and quarrying



C 10

Manufacture of food products

C 11

Manufacture of beverages

C 12

Manufacture of tobacco products

C 13

Manufacture of textiles

C 14

Manufacture of wearing apparel

C 15

Manufacture of leather and related products

C 16

Manufacture of wood and of products of wood and cork, except furniture; manufacture of articles of straw and plaiting materials

C 17

Manufacture of paper and paper products

C 18

Printing and reproduction of recorded media

C 19

Manufacture of coke and refined petroleum products

C 20

Manufacture of chemicals and chemical products

C 21

Manufacture of basic pharmaceutical products and pharmaceutical preparations

C 22

Manufacture of rubber and plastic products

C 23

Manufacture of other non-metallic mineral products

C 24

Manufacture of basic metals

C 25

Manufacture of fabricated metal products, except machinery and equipment

C 26

Manufacture of computer, electronic and optical products

C 27

Manufacture of electrical equipment

C 28

Manufacture of machinery and equipment n.e.c.

C 29

Manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers

C 30

Manufacture of other transport equipment

C 31

Manufacture of furniture

C 32

Other manufacturing

C 33

Repair and installation of machinery and equipment


Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply


Water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities



F 41

Construction of buildings


Civil engineering


Specialised construction activities


Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles

G 45

Wholesale and retail trade and repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles

G 46

Wholesale trade, except of motor vehicles and motorcycles

G 47

Retail trade, except of motor vehicles and motorcycles


Transportation and storage

H 49

Land transport and transport via pipelines

H 50

Water transport

H 51

Air transport

H 52

Warehousing and support activities for transportation

H 53

Postal and courier activities


Accommodation and food service activities

I 55


I 56

Food and beverage service activities


Information and communication


Financial and insurance activities


Real estate activities


Professional, scientific and technical activities


Administrative and support service activities


Public administration and defence, compulsory social security




Human health and social work activities

Q 87

Human health activities

Q 88

Residential care activities

Q 89

Social work activities without accommodation


Arts, entertainment and recreation

R 90

Creative, arts and entertainment activities

R 91

Libraries, archives, museums and other cultural activities

R 92

Gambling and betting activities

R 93

Sports activities and amusement and recreation activities


Other service activities


Activities of households as employers; undifferentiated goods- and services-producing activities of households for own use


Activities of extraterritorial organisations and bodies


Used groups

D, E

Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply; water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities

S, T, U

Other activities


International Standard Classification of Education 2011

ISCED (International Standard Classification of Education) is designed to serve as a framework to classify educational activities as defined in programmes and the resulting qualifications into internationally agreed categories. The basic concepts and definitions of ISCED are therefore intended to be internationally valid and comprehensive of the full range of education systems. The current version used is already the third one. The following table presents a comparison between the previous version, ISCED 97, and the newest version, ISCED 2011.

The comparison of the 1997 and 2011 versions of ISCED (International Standard Classification of Education) is presented: Comparison of ISCED97 and ISCED 2011

Published educational data correspond to following ISCED 2011 codes:

Below upper secondary education  0–2

lower secondary education (grade 6), equivalent level or lower  0–1

lower secondary education or equivalent level (grade 9)  24

lower secondary education – vocational  25

Upper secondary education, post-secondary non-tertiary education  3–4

upper secondary education  34

upper secondary education – vocational  35

post-secondary non-tertiary education – vocational  45

Tertiary education  5–8

professional secondary education based on secondary education  55

higher education, Master’s and Doctor’s degree  6–8

bachelor's or equivalent level  66

master’s or equivalent level  76

doctoral or equivalent level  86


Estonian Labour Force Survey. Methodology

Eesti statistika aastaraamat. Statistical Yearbook of Estonia

Eesti piirkondlik areng. Regional Development in Estonia. Yearbook


Eveli Voolens

Population and Social Statistics Department

Tel +372 625 9334

Updated: 20.11.2019