Estonia flag Estonia: Economic and Political Overview

The economic context of Estonia

Economic Indicators

For the latest updates on the key economic responses from governments to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the IMF's policy tracking platform Policy Responses to COVID-19.

After its recovery from the crisis, Estonian growth was affected by an unfavourable regional situation (European sanctions against Russia and the following counter-sanctions), but it grew at a fast pace in recent years (+5% in 2019). Nevertheless, the COVID-19 pandemic and the crisis that followed had a severe impact on the country’s economy, with GDP dropping by 3% in 2020 (a relatively moderate contraction compared to other EU countries). In 2021, Estonia’s economy rebounded, with an estimated GDP growth of 8.5%, driven by private demand and government stimulus. Economic activity is forecast to moderate to growth rates of 4.2% in 2022 and 3.7% in 2023, with positive contributions in particular from net exports and household consumption (IMF).

Estonia became a member of the European Union on May 1 2004 and was the first former Soviet country to join the OECD in May 2010. This Baltic republic has managed to move from a state-run and centralised economy to a dynamic market economy, liberalised by a succession of governments observing strict budgetary orthodoxy and modernising the country. The country has stood out, mainly thanks to its IT sector (the invention of Skype, mobile payment systems, internet voting, multifunctional electronic identity cards and initiatives in the sphere of cybersecurity), as well as its performances in the green energy sector. Furthermore, Estonia enjoys relative energy independence through the exploitation of shale oil, of which the country is one of the world's largest producers and which covers a large part of its electricity needs. In general, the country has stable public finances; nevertheless, the general government deficit was estimated at -4% of GDP in 2021 (after peaking one year earlier). The deficit is projected to decrease to 2.9% of GDP in 2022 and 2% in 2023, as higher revenues counterbalance higher public wages, healthcare and additional investments. Although it bounced to 20% in 2021 from a pre-pandemic level of 8.6%, the Estonian debt-to-GDP ratio is still the lowest in the EU. However, it is projected to follow an upward trend over the forecast horizon (at 21.4% and 22.4% this year and the next, respectively - IMF). The global energy price hikes and supply bottlenecks contributed to a rise in manufacturing, transport and delivery costs, resulting in an inflation rate of 3.8% in 2021. The rate is expected to further increase to 4.9% in 2022 before easing to 2.2% in 2023.

In recent years, the Estonian labour market has been characterized by labour shortages and consequently rising nominal wages. Unemployment stood at 6.55 in 2021 (from a level of 4.4% before the sanitary crisis), but is forecast to gradually decline, reaching 6% this year and 5.4% in 2023. According to the latest data published by Eurostat, 22.8% of the population is at risk of poverty. In 2021, the real GDP per capita (PPP) was estimated at USD 39,729 by the IMF.

 
Main Indicators 201920202021 (e)2022 (e)2023 (e)
GDP (billions USD) 31.0530.6336.0439.5442.60
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) 4.1-3.08.54.23.7
GDP per Capita (USD) 23,40023,036e27,10129,73532,046
General Government Balance (in % of GDP) -0.1-4.3-4.0-2.9-2.0
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 8.618.520.021.422.4
Inflation Rate (%) 2.3-0.64.511.94.6
Unemployment Rate (% of the Labour Force) 4.46.86.56.05.4
Current Account (billions USD) 0.62-0.18-0.65-0.78-0.89
Current Account (in % of GDP) 2.0-0.6-1.8-2.0-2.1

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database, October 2021

Note: (e) Estimated Data

Main Sectors of Industry

Agriculture accounts for only 2.2% of the country's GDP and employs around 3.2% of the workforce (World Bank, latest data available). With rich reserves of shale oil, Estonia draws a considerable part of its energy production (around 60%) from this resource, which gives it self-sufficiency in terms of electricity. Arable land and permanent crops cover roughly almost 1 million ha, with 2 million ha under forest and 220 ha of organic crops. The main crops include cereals, potatoes and vegetables. According to the latest figures from Statistics Estonia, in 2021 total agricultural output reached EUR 1 billion, up by 9.3% year-on-year.

The industrial sector represents around 22.7% of the GDP and accounts for 28.7% of total employment. The main industrial subsectors are the food industry (dairy products and meat processing), electronics & IT (a traditional sector), the chemical and the wood processing industry. Altogether, the manufacturing sector alone contributes to an estimated 12.9% of the country’s GDP (World Bank). Preliminary figures from Statistics Estonia show that in 2021, industrial production rose 6.4%: production in the energy sector grew 19.2%; meanwhile, manufacturing output declined 6.4% and mining fell 15.7%.

The services sector is the most developed (in particular transport and logistics, biotechnology and financial services) and accounts for roughly 62.7% of the Estonian GDP, employing around 68.1% of the active population. The ICT segment shows the strongest performance, accounting for around 7% of total GDP and almost 6% of total employment (the country invested in this sector and created the TalTech’s School of Information Technologies and the Centre of Excellence in ICT Research - EXCITE). As per the country’s banking sector, it comprises 14 banks, of which nine are licensed credit institutions in Estonia and five are operating as branches of foreign credit institutions. The sector is dominated by foreign capital holding 85% of banking sector assets. The market is chiefly divided between Swedbank, SEB Bank, LHV Bank and Luminor Bank.

 
Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 3.2 28.7 68.1
Value Added (in % of GDP) 2.2 22.7 62.7
Value Added (Annual % Change) -6.1 -4.0 -2.1

Source: World Bank, Latest Available Data. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

 

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Indicator of Economic Freedom

Definition:

The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labour freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.}}

Score:
78,2/100
World Rank:
8
Regional Rank:
4

Economic freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation

 

Business environment ranking

Definition:

The business rankings model measures the quality or attractiveness of the business environment in the 82 countries covered by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Country Forecast reports. It examines ten separate criteria or categories, covering the political environment, the macroeconomic environment, market opportunities, policy towards free enterprise and competition, policy towards foreign investment, foreign trade and exchange controls, taxes, financing, the labour market and infrastructure.

Score:
7.41/10
World Rank:
23/82

Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit - Business Environment Rankings 2020-2024

 

Country Risk

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Sources of General Economic Information

Ministries
Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication
Ministry of Finance
Statistical Office
Estonian Statistics
Central Bank
Central Bank of Estonia
Stock Exchange
Nasdaq Baltic
Economic Portals
Postimees
The Baltic Times
 

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Latest Update: July 2022