The total population of Estonia is around 1.3 million people. As in other countries in the region, the population growth rate has been very modest recently. Average life expectancy was 76 years in 2011; 71 years for men and 81 years for women. The population density is approximately 30 inhabitants per square km. Around two-thirds of the population is urban, and one-third rural. 69% of the population is of Estonian ethnicity. The second largest ethnic group is Russian, forming approximately 26% of the population. 2% of the population has Ukrainian roots, and Belarussians and Finns each make up approximately 1% of the population.
The official language is Estonian. More than one million people speak Estonian, which belongs to the Finno-Baltic group of the Finno-Ugric language family. Estonian is closely related to Finnish (the similarity is comparable to that between Italian and Spanish), while Hungarian is a more distant relative. Estonia uses the Latin alphabet. As a majority of the Estonian business community is internationally oriented, English is understood and spoken fluently by a large number of businesspeople. Furthermore, many Estonians speak Russian
and, especially in Northern Estonia, Finnish, among other foreign languages.
Overall, most Estonians are not religious. There is a tolerance toward all religions and in general religious beliefs do not affect business activities in Estonia. Formally, Estonians are predominantly Lutherans, but religion does not have any considerable impact on daily life. There are small Russian Orthodox, Baptist and other communities across the country.
Estonia has been reforming its education system since regaining independence in the beginning of 1990s. The current system consists of compulsory basic education, followed by upper-secondary education, at either a general high school or a vocational school. The general education process then offers higher education at university or at an applied higher education institution, and the vocational process offers post-secondary education at a technical school. The reformed educational system does, however, provide for movement between the general and vocational processes. Education is mostly provided in Estonian. State and municipal education establishments are mostly free of charge. There are 28 institutions of higher education in Estonia, including the renowned University of Tartu, Tallinn University of Technology, and other universities. The study programs of the bigger universities tend to be internationally accredited. Some universities have programs in the English language.
After regaining independence from the Soviet Union, Estonia has been among the most advanced emerging markets in Central and Eastern Europe, mostly owing to the success of its socio-economic reforms over the last twenty years. Estonia has a liberal market based economy. The government has pursued nearly balanced budgets and low public debt. Oil shale-based energy production, telecommunications and IT products, textiles, chemical products, banking, food and fishing, timber and wood products, shipbuilding, electronics, transportation and various services remain key sectors of the Estonian economy. Estonia produces nearly all of the energy needed for the country, supplying over 90% of its electricity needs with locally mined oil shale. Alternative energy sources such as wood, peat, and biomass contribute approximately 15% of primary energy production. Key economic indicators over the period 2004-2011 are summarized in the table below.