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Saturday 20.01.2018 | Name days: Aļģirds, Orests, Oļģerts, Alģis

High emigration, Lithuania’s malady No.1, grips further

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

The new year is less than four days old, but the topic of emigration has resurged in more harrowing tinges: exodus of fellow Lithuanians not just slowed down, but, in fact, picked up over the last year, during which more than 54 thousand people left Lithuania, according to the Lithuanian Statistics.

If such decamping continues, the country’s population will thin from the current 2.8 million to 2.4 million inhabitants in 2030 and can hit the mark of 2 million in 2040. In 2016, 50 000 departures were registered.

«With the differences in the standards of living in Lithuania and the West, it is hard to expect that the shrinking will come to a sudden stop,» Jurgis Razma, a Lithuanian parliamentarian, told BNN.

Calling high emigration as one of Lithuania’s «biggest scourges», Žilvinas Šilėnas, president of Lithuania’s Free Market Institute (LFMI), pondered that, over the course, emigration might slow down due to what he calls «technical» reasons.


«There might be soon just too few Lithuanians who can or want to leave due to their age or social status, so, understandably, it will reflect on the statistics,» he told BNN.

However, with the economics playing the first fiddle in the making mind whether to stay here or leave for a better life abroad, other factors, like weakening national consciousness, i.e. a shared sense of national identity, are often unjustifiably disregarded as a reason, claim some analysts.

In a recent discussion organised by the European Institute in Kaunas University of Technology, Vygaudas Ušackas, the European Union’s former envoy to Russia and, now, director of the Institute (he is also widely seen as a 2019 presidential race participant), has called emigration Lithuania’s largest threat.

«It does pose big menace to our national security and our economic wellbeing…It is obvious that there is no strategy (as to how tackle emigration) and (it is obvious) that we haven’t seen until now any structural changes that would encourage our citizens to be positive to the state,» Ušackas pointed out.

Officially, around 1 million has left Lithuania since the restoration of independence in 1990. More disturbingly, ca 90 young Lithuanians have said in a recent poll they would rather live in a developed Western state than in their homeland, Lithuania, provided they get a job according their specialty of studies.

«We need a clear plan (aiming to halt emigration) and, importantly, there has to be political will to assume responsibility,» Ušackas underlined.

However, the presumed presidential hopeful did not offer his own ideas tackling the scourge.

The demographics is against Ušackas, too: birth rates are on decline and the birth rate-boosting measures did not work until now.

There were 57 000 babies born in 1990 and the number went down nearly twice in 2016, which saw only 31 000 newborns.

«It is very sad to say that a lot of Lithuanians simply do not believe in the prospects of their own state,» Ušackas admitted.

The stats put the number of Lithuanian population at 3.7 million inhabitants in 1990 and it was thought to be at ca 2.85 million in 2017. However, authorities unofficially say the number of 2.5 is more realistic.

«Alarmingly, the sheer majority of émigrés are of working age. In 2016, roughly 3.5 employed persons maintained one retiree and, with the dynamics unchanged, 2.2 employed people will need to support the pensioner in 2030,» said former EU ambassador to Russia.

Speaking in the same event, Mindaugas Kubilius, philosopher and partner of «Glade», a consultancy, discerned insufficient income, high prices, social exclusion, negative emotional mood in the state as well as insecurity in retirement as the main reasons of devastating emigration.

«Many people just do not believe that Lithuania can provide them a future…The statements that Lithuania’s economy is growing fastest in the entire European Union do not resonate among the most citizens,» he accentuated.

According to philosopher, Lithuanians‘ self-esteem has shrunk from 62.7 per cent in 2008 to 42.7 per cent in 2016.

«As a result, we have more people who feel more unhappy today,» he concluded.

What particularly worries Kubilius is a recent research by Human Study Center in Vilnius. The poll showed that a staggering 90.4 per cent of respondents of age between 15 and 19 would rather emigrate if provided a job matching their specialty of studies.

«It is evident that the youth has given in negative emotional mood in the country,» «Glade» partner inferred. «The only way to halt emigration is to make the citizens feel better in the state and build trust in it.»

He did not lay out a plan of action in the regard, however.

Meanwhile, Vytautas Tumėnas, associate professor at the Lithuanian Institute of History, brings up other reasons of record-high EU wide emigration in Lithuania – weak and weakening sense of national consciousness.

«Ethnic culture is not just national holidays like Easter or Christmas. It is the foundation which links present generations with the heritage of our ancestors. With this being forgotten, the void is being filled with the traditions of other cultures,» Tumėnas emphasised.

In his words, with a bunch of economic maladies plaguing Lithuania, more and more Lithuanians tend to associate themselves with the culture of economic powerhouses.

«The compatriots tend to believe that by absorbing it here they can swifter adapt to local life once in in the country,» the scientist underlined.

According to him, many Northern and Western European nations pay big attention to maintaining and boosting of national traditions and cultural identity.

«For instance, national costume in Norway has long been seen as a symbol of democracy. It is common for all in the country to wear it during a national holiday. There are quite a few successful examples in the world showing how national identity can be masterfully cherished through the language and the traditions. From the kindergartens to the high schools,» Tumėnas underscored.

Only recently Lithuania embedded national identity as a priority task in securing national security.

However, there possibly is no a single remedy to stem high emigration numbers.

The ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens had promised to move mountains in tackling emigration during the campaigning in 2016, but it is evident that with the party’s first year in power behind, little has been achieved.

«I don’t see any systemic changes. In fact, the disenchantment with the party and its electoral promises has only grown over the year. On the other hand, I doubt whether we can prevent people from leaving Lithuania when the western economies entice with higher salaries and higher standards of living,» Jurgis Razma, a Conservative MP, told BNN.

«Unfortunately, the statistics regarding emigration are merciless: exodus continues and we can hardly expect some consolation in the near future. We can perhaps just hope that, sooner or later, there will be no Lithuanians willing or able to decamp – due to age, first of all,» Žilvinas Šilėnas, president of Lithuania’s Free Market Institute (LFMI) told BNN. «It goes without saying, this bodes nothing good to state of Lithuania.»

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  1. John says:

    Let Lithuania learn to win from emigration, not just complain endlessly

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