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Friday 23.02.2018 | Name days: Haralds, Almants

Will Lithuania have gone extinct by year 2314?

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULinas Jegelevičius for the BNN

Like many others, Lithuanians might like sex, but definitely not bearing and raising kids. The birth rate is expected to dip to 1.29 children per a fertile couple in 2015 and at that rate it will be one of the lowest in the world. No doubt, over the last 10 years in the European Union, Lithuania, the largest Baltic country, has become significantly more competitive, but the demographic issues have exacerbated.

As many as 800,000 Lithuanian citizens are thought to have left the country since the proclamation of the restoration of the country’s independence in 1990, and another 300,000 people are believed to be gone by 2020. Dismayingly, Eurostat, the Union’s statistical agency, put the number of people residing in Lithuania in 2040 under 2 million. It’s a high time to start making babies, fellow Lithuanians!

Grim demographic situation

«The key challenge we are dealing with is the enormous exodus of our nation. By 2020, it will pose the biggest challenge for the competitiveness and investment attraction,» said Robertas Dargis, president of Lithuania’s Industrialists Confederation (LIC).

It is urgent for Lithuania to start speaking about the immigration politics for a simple reason- without people the economy will not be able to sustain itself, he pointed out.

«Unfortunately, when someone raises the topic, most of our politicians hush – so divisive the issue is. No one wants get involved in the discussions, but the bottom line is this – an economy needs people,» the LIC director noted.

The immigration politics could start off with small steps and be making strides when the positive impact starts giving results.

«Look, in Kaunas Technology University, we have 60 students from India. I wonder why their visas become defunct the moment they graduate from the University. Why do the young people willing to joing the labour market or start their own business have to leave the country first? Why doesn‘t anyone say we should open up ourselves and let people want to stay here?» Dargis wondered in a recent LIC conference.

According to Eurostat, a European statistical data agency, Lithuania sits on the very bottom of the EU-28 club according to the pace of aging and the statistcs‘ monitor projects that, in 2045, over 50 retirees will fall for every 100 employable residents. Now, the rate is 26 pensioners per 100 employed.

Swedbank economists estimate the employment of Lithuanian inhabitants will be reaching its peak in 2016 and will start declining thereafter, an aftermath of fewer people on payroll.

Why aren‘t Lithuanian couples eager to procreate? Is it possible to boost the fertility of the nation? And, importantly, how? So that the grim current statistics of birth- some 1.5 child per every couple- could be boosted to the world‘s average- 2.5 children?

Women have to bear young

For Rimantas Jonas Dagys, a staunch Lithuanian Conservative, it is all about the need to spur and make key changes in the family politics.

«If the families in our society will continue being unstable, the birth rate will inevitably go down. The less stable family is the lesser birth rate is,» the MP said.

When in power in 2008-2010, the Conservatives had hiked the maternal leave payouts significantly, and the desired effect was there, but the economic crunch forced the Conservative-Liberal Government to make considerable cuts to the maternal fund.

«But now the measures would not be sufficient. We need other measures, like drawing up a housing program for young families. Alas, we have so far adopted only a social housing program, but the second part of it foreseeing aid to young families by providing them accommodation at an acceptable price, because of its costs, is still in the drawers. But those expenses aren‘t that large for state, I believe, » the lawmaker pondered.

But Birutė Vėsaitė, а high-ranking Lithuanian Social Democrat, disagrees with her fellow legislator:  «How do you imagine having such a programme implemented with the free market operating? Perhaps Dagys is reminiscent of the Soviet era if he is considering such ideas.»

She insisted once the economy is better and more social security-and stability-ensues, Lithuanian women will start bearing.

«That is what we have to focus on, not on some specially designed programme that, as a rule, aren’t working,» the Social Democrat told BNN.

Family institution under attack

Nevertheless, Dagis believes, the bottom line of all is to maintain the stable family, to make sure it has a job and a roof over its head. Then children will start appearing.

«Definitely, the public‘s approach to mothers, all parents who raise children is very important. Unfortunately, the institution of family has been under a heavy pressure and attacks aiming to destroy it. All those institutes of equal opportunities and all those politicians who pout only about all kinds of rights and prioritize quite other priorities, not the priority of family, must assume a clear responsibility for the demolition of the age-old structure,» Dagys said.

The family policies are confusing, moreover giving legal explanation on what makes up family from a legal point of view is being procrastinated, even in Lithuania‘s Constitution Court who did not dare to define family a as a married couple consisting of man and woman.

«The ruling has brought only more confusion, and it is unclear whom to support. Therefore, unsurprisingly, we see state institutions shying a uniform approach to the institution of family, instead we see child, mother and father individualized in the family legislation, which leads to nowhere», the MP said.

The opaqueness of family politics does ill-effect the folks’ resolve to bear not to bear.

«In the next year’s budget, only a mere half-million litas is earmarked for measure directly connected with family politics. That is dismayingly too little. What is the half-million against the state budget of LTL 30 billion (EUR 8.7 billion)? Besides, from the budget line we feed all sort of institutions, like the child right ombudsman’s maintenance, which fight violence in families. Sure, they are necessary, but what the family politics has to do with them? » the Conservative wondered.

If he was in the shoes to hammer state’s family politics, he wouldprioritize the strengthening of marital knots and would funnel money for social politics through the institution of family, sure a unit of man and woman.

«Regarding the birth rates, it’s been clear for long that the first child needs to come to the world as early as possible. This is the classics of demography,» Dagys is convinced.

Young people want to live free

Statistically, nearly 10% of young Lithuanians do not plan on having any children in their lives while one-fifth intends it in the future.

A whopping one-third explains the refusal with absence of a right partner, nearly as many want to live a childless life for a better quality of their own lives; an alarming 13.3% said they cannot conceive and 12.7% pointed out having other purposes in their lives.

Interestingly, most of the time, men complain of being unable to find a right spouse for marital life.

«That only affirms that women in big cities tend to be more educated and have other goals in their lives. That type of women is not traditionally perceived as women suitable for being partners. But that one-third of the respondents claim to not have met a suitable partner for the purpose is really interesting,» said  Milda Ališauskienė, associate professor at Kaunas Vytautas Magnus University.

According to the Lithuanian Statistics Department, there were 532,600 children under 18 in early 2014, but the part of children in the total of the country’s population has been declining: in 2001, children took up 24.4% of the population and only 18.1% 13 years later. And, importantly, the trend is thought to be edging downward.

Not surprisingly, Eurostat has announced recently that less than 2 million people will be residing in Lithuania in 2040.

Too murky forecasts?

But the findings, however, have drawn much criticism from local experts.

«Acknowledging the demographic problems Lithuania is dealing with, yet it is preposterous to believe that, following the projection, some 32,000 inhabitants will be leaving the country yearly until 2040. I reckon even the most disappointed compatriots who do not hold much trust in the own country’s prospects will cast a doubt on the forecast,» said Nerijus Mačiulis, Swedbank‘s chief economist.

He added: «Look, the EU‘s statistical agency has been proven wrong this year already – for Lithuania predicted emigration of 33,400 people when in reality it was some 13,000 people. The reason for the drop is not only the decrease in emigration, but also the increasing re-emigration. It’s in many lips that soon Lithuania will stay without people, but that just brushes with the reality,» the economist said.

Still, the problem has not gone anywhere. The birth rate ought to be way higher to make sure there is a Lithuania a three hundred years from now. Otherwise it may go extinct.

Ref: 020/

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