kolmapäev, juuli 11, 2012

outliers

Our daughter Maria (right) and our friend's son Remi: the few, the proud, the babies.

I owe it all to my sixth grade teacher, of all people. We were assigned to give a report on different countries and I had my fingers crossed for Scotland so that I could write about blood feuds and kilts, but I drew Iceland instead. Oh, Iceland, lovely Iceland, desolate lunar island in the middle of the North Atlantic, glaciers and the stink of sulphur. The project on Iceland sparked my interest in peculiar northern countries, a few twists in the road and I'm here. That was back in 1992, when the population of Iceland was about 260,000. Today, its population is nearly 320,000. That's right. In 20 years, Iceland has gained 60,000 new people. 

Why does this interest us? Because in slightly more than half that amount of time, Estonia has lost more than that number. The preliminary census figures released in May showed that there were 1.29 million people resident in the country as of Jan. 1. That's down from 1.34 million in 2000, and 1.56 million way back in 1989. These days people in Estonia keep their fingers crossed for a month when they break even or even register population growth, if only by a few dozen new babies. It's a national preoccupation.

What's going on here? You are not going to convince me that Iceland has better weather, or its more centrally located, or it has a more diverse economy or less tumultuous history. It may have not been ravaged in multiple continental wars, but its population was decimated time and again by famine, volcanic eruptions, and plague. And even during this current Great Recession, where Reykjavik was ground zero, Iceland's population has continued to go up, while the Estonians, who are congratulating themselves for averting the worst of the crisis, continue to see their population decline, albeit at a slower rate than in previous years. "Estonia has proven itself as a country," says Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, except in the bedroom, I would like to add.

How can this be?  Someone must be to blame. In Estonia, some blame the women who emigrate in greater numbers compared to the men, the women who settle in foreign lands and work in foreign economies and make foreign babies. Some blame the men who expect the women to make them food and do their laundry, forcing them to seek happiness elsewhere. Still others blame the Soviets for knocking Estonia off course, because Estonia and Finland were on equal footing in 1940, and now Estonia has fallen behind, and its population declines while Finland's continues to grow. Or maybe it is just the hyper-individualistic Estonian attitude, that one must serve his or her own interests before society's. It's every man for himself!

I honestly don't see the population decrease firsthand. I am surrounded by babies. I have a new baby, our neighbor has a new baby, my wife's cousin has a new baby and her stepsister has a new baby. My pal Sven's got five kids under 13. He deserves the Maarjamaa rist! If somebody's to blame for population decline, it's not us. But who is it then? Who is selling Estonia short? And why? There is this feeling in Estonia that we are leaking water, and someone must put a stop to it, before the tünnisaun runs dry.

15 kommentaari:

Syntax ütles ...

I'm happy to report that my participant families averaged at 2.2 children per couple so no problems amongst the bilingual families in Tallinn!

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

"I owe it all to my sixth grade teacher ..."?

What?

How?

I thought you'd somehow tie back to this statement in the end. Do I have to put more nickels in to see how the story ends?

Rainer ütles ...

On an unrelated note:

"...before the tunnisaun runs dry"

Tunnisaun or tünnisaun? Those are two separate things.

Giustino ütles ...

Okay, I think I answered your queries. Sorry, no more nickels or dimes necessary!

Marko ütles ...

That's true that a lot of people in their late 20's, early 30's are having kids. But what you forget is the fact that we had a baby boom in early mid 80's. These young people should be the second most prominent demographic group on the streets of Estonia, pushing prams, after the old age pensioners. But they're simply not there, as a lot have left the country for one reason or the other. That's why some are complaining.

Temesta ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Temesta ütles ...

It's not about the birth rate, it is about immigration and emigration. The birth rate of Estonia and Iceland doesn't differ so much, and Sweden even has a lower birth rate than Estonia, while it's population increased with 600 000 people in only ten years!
But the priority in Estonia seems to be not to increase the population as such, but to increase the amount of ethnic Estonians, which seems to be an impossible task, if even countries with a very high standard of living like Sweden cannot increase the birth rate.

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2054rank.html

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Along the lines of this topic ...

http://arvamus.postimees.ee/905330/raul-kalev-motlik-nutulaul-haabuvast-rahvusriigist

Marko ütles ...

That's a good article in light of todays judgement by state court. Their handing over all the sovereignty, and then what? In 20 years time Russia might want to join, and then those fuckers will have blood on their hands. What is happening, according to Estonian law, is treason.Yet, the highest court in the land has ruled - it's okay, as it's beneficial. But to who?

prodigy ütles ...

Temesta wrote: "But the priority in Estonia seems to be not to increase the population as such, but to increase the amount of ethnic Estonians, which seems to be an impossible task"

Actually, I follow Estonia's demographics pretty closely and in the last few years (all years since about 2008) approximately 80% of all births in Estonia have been to ethnic Estonian parents. So even though Estonians are only about 69% of the population according to latest census figures, about 80% of children under age 5 are Estonians. This means that in 50 years or so Estonians should naturally increase from about 69% to 80% of the country's total population.

As far as actually increasing Estonia's population at large, Estonia's population WOULD actually be increasing naturally by at least a few thousand a year every since about 2006 or 2007 if abortions dropped by about 50%.

In terms of emigration, Estonia doesn't have it nearly as rough as Latvia or Lithuania. For example, about 50 thousand people have emigrated from Estonia in the last decade compared to 200 thousand for Lithuania and nearly that same number for Latvia. By far most Estonians choose to hop next door to Finland whereas Latvia and Lithuania have had to deal with large scale emigration to far flung places (from the Baltics) like Ireland.

prodigy ütles ...

http://www.forbes.com/sites/markadomanis/2012/07/06/germanys-demographic-crisis-is-now-worse-than-russias/

To add to my post, Estonia's birth rate is actually high compared to other EU nations like Germany. I just thought I'd post a link to this article here, figured perhaps some people might be interested to read it.

Meelis ütles ...

"Actually, I follow Estonia's demographics pretty closely and in the last few years (all years since about 2008) approximately 80% of all births in Estonia have been to ethnic Estonian parents."
Not so much. 74,98% in 2010 and 73,64% in 2011.

prodigy ütles ...

@ Meelis

Yep, you are absolutely right. I went to double check the tables and found I made a mistake. I was going to go back and check but you corrected my mistake for me. Thank you!

prodigy ütles ...

*I meant to say I was going to correct myself here, but you did it for me. Should've read what I wrote before I posted it. :)

Asehpe ütles ...

But aren't low birthrates a general phenomenon all over Europe (and the Western world, where they have been decreasing steadily and will ultimately reach similar numbers)? I mean, is it ''Estonia'', or is it ''Western/Developed Europe''? Of course the population of Estonia is small (by European standards), but if you compare it to, say, a large city in France or Germany, you could see similar numbers, with population reduction. I don't think anybody is selling anybody short, it's simply a demographic phenomenon typical of Western developed countries.