Each year, Julianus Inkasso puts together a comprehensive perspective of Estonian private individuals’ payment difficulties to give an in-depth look at the nation’s debt habits. The latest data shows that statistically, the average debtor in 2023 will be a 46-year-old Estonian man with 2.6 active payment issues and a total debt of around €3,400.
According to Julianus Inkasso, an estimated 83 253 individuals will have at least one overdue debt in 2023. However, compared to 2020, when at least 101,000 people were known to be in debt, this number is steadily on a positive downward trend. “In the last few years, there has been a slight decrease in people falling behind on their payments. Simultaneously though, debtors owe more and more money on average. Considering the general price increase, this is also quite expected,” says Merle Laurimäe, CEO and board member of Julianus Inkasso. In the span of a year, the average debt per person escalated from €2,900 to €3,377.
Check the background of your business partner
While more than 60 percent of all debtors have only one or two active debts, almost 1140 people have ten or more. These individuals represent 1.3% of all debtors. Their average amount of debt is also significantly higher than the average amount of payments due for all debtors and exceeds €12 200.
In more than half of the cases, it turns out that a person already has an active payment problem when debt proceedings are opened, which suggests that credit decisions are not sufficiently background checked, according to Art Andresson, CEO of Taust.ee, Estonia’s largest database of payment problems. “Before entering any new business transaction, you should always be sure that the counterparty does not have any major payment problems that could lead to difficult situations later on,” Andresson explains.
Individuals with payment issues are much more prone to take out loans in the future
While the average amount of debt increased compared to last year, it has remained more or less the same among people aged 25 and under, indicating that young people are less risk-averse than other age groups. However, price rises and inflation has also impacted young people, with the number of young people in debt rising by almost five percentage points over the year. On the positive side, the number of debtors in the 26-45 age group has fallen significantly.
Although the overall number of people with payment problems is declining, data from Taust.ee and Julianus Inkasso show that the noticeable increase in debtors in all age groups is among those with four or more payment problems.
Men have more debts than women
Although women outnumber men in the Estonian population, men continue to have more payment problems. The proportion of women in arrears is twice that of men, accounting for 33% of debtors compared to 67% of men. However, the average amount of debt for both men and women is similar to last year, and the gender distribution is even.
Estonians’ debts remain higher than before
The share of the Russian-speaking population in the Estonian ethnic breakdown is 26%. However, the Russian-speaking population accounts for a third of all debtors, indicating that Russian speakers have, on average, more active payment problems than Estonians compared to the national breakdown. On the other hand, the average amount owed by Estonians has remained more than €600 higher than the previous year, and Estonians also have more debts per person.
Considering the population distribution in the counties as a proportion of the total population, the share of debtors is lowest in the islands and Lääne and Põlva counties. Compared to last year, the number of people behind on their payments has increased most in Ida-Virumaa, given that the population has remained unchanged. However, geographically, the total amount of debt is much lower for Ida-Virumaa residents, which is supported by the fact that the average amount of debt for the Russian-speaking population is much lower than for Estonians.
Despite the significant economic shifts, Merle Laurimäe, CEO of Julianus Inkasso, the data has been relatively predictable in a positive way. “The situation is pretty good because there are no big changes in the statistics compared to last year, although inflation has been very high, and the rise in food-energy prices and the rise in borrowing have reduced wages,” Laurimäe says. Also, the actual economic situation may not yet be reflected in the statistics because, according to Laurimäe, it is always essential to consider that problems reach the default and debt collection stage with a delay.
To sum up, as of March 2023, there are €281 099 245 in active debt and at least 216 955 known active payment defaults among Estonian private individuals. Parking fines and waste collection bills are not counted as payment defaults, as they do not directly indicate the ability to pay.