What could bring thousands of Lithuanian expats back to the homeland?
This week, Vilmorus, the polling company, has announced results of a survey that clearly pointed out to two key things: economic growth and a change in the country’s psychological climate are vital to see the emigrants contemplate a possible comeback.
Economic growth and respect matter most
As many as 36 percent of the respondents, scattered all over, replied Lithuania’s economic growth is the key factor in ever making up their mind to pack up and hop onto a Lithuania-bound plane.
The runner-up factor on the wish-list, quite unexpectedly to many, turned out to be the psychological climate in the country and, especially, the level of respect to each.
Behind the two «desirables» sit the will to earn in Lithuania more than in the country of immigration. Perhaps a signal to all Lithuanian employers, this is followed by a «different approach» to the worker in Lithuania -22 percent deemed it important.
Next in the line is «belief» that personal efforts can ever pan out in Lithuania, as well as the striving to see better conditions for establishment a new business in Lithuania.
Eleven percent pointed out they would perhaps return to Lithuania if it provided career better opportunities in private and public sector. A considerable 10 percent discerned «a change» in the social security system.
An impressive 40 percent of the polled expats also singled out the negative public opinion towards them by the fellow compatriots in Lithuania. Meanwhile, 54 percent told the pollster they have never encountered an adverse reaction just because they live and work.
Foreign Ministry to hone future campaigns targeting expats
Interestingly, 89 percent of the surveyed said they are following life in Lithuania through conventional media and, increasingly, via social media, but were missing positive information about Lithuania and the career opportunities it can offer.
«Knowing that more expats get information about Lithuania through social media will allow us accordingly carry out and coordinate our future campaigns,» says Mantvydas Bekešius, the deputy minister of the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Notably, 30 percent intended to never come back to Lithuania, Bekešius insists «the number is not big.»
«To translate it, it means that two-thirds of Lithuanians do to not see any hurdles for their comeback,» the vice-minister told at the introduction of the survey results.
Asked to weigh in on the popularity of Lithuania in the country of immigration, nearly three out of four respondents said it is «sufficient» or «good», but, notably, 28 percent insisted it was «bad.»
To the question how they have contributed to “positive changes” in Lithuania, which was observed by a whopping majority in the poll, 44 percent told they «popularized» Lithuania in the country where they stay and, interestingly, 43 percent underlined they were «constantly» supporting relatives back home.
Expats tend to be snappish
Summing up the poll results, Vladas Gaidys told BNN that, for many, particularly the Lithuanian public’s take on expats has been «a determining factor» in forging or keeping up the liaisons with Lithuania.
This does not surprise the pollster.
«For some Lithuanians (out there), it seems that many in Lithuania squint at them, in a sense they are being looked down upon. Obviously, part of the expats experiences a certain complex of inferiority and are very sensitive as far as the public opinion about them is concerned,» Gaidys pointed out.
Not surprisingly, therefore, every public discussion online, which affects emigrants, is disproportionally blown up and tend to reverberate long.
«Sometimes, just a single word that does not mean anything special in Lithuania can trigger certain and far-reaching emotional flare-ups,» the Vilmorus director underlined.
As a rule, most of the emigrants are viewed better by the population in a foreign country than in Lithuania, says the survey, ordered by the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
And who is to blame for that?
Media, according to the poll.
Lithuania needs to walk step-in-step
Vytis Čiubrinskas, professor and head of Social Anthropology Center and Kaunas Vytautas Magnum University, points out to the factor of intolerance in Lithuania that the majority of the expats have mentioned.
«We see it in our media, especially recently, against the refugees (that Lithuania has committed to accommodate). Indeed, there’s little tolerance for being different in Lithuania,» the scholar concluded.
Meanwhile, following the poll, some of the expats went public, posting their thoughts on the issue online.
«Emigration is not only the choice of the people who departed. It is also the inability of Lithuania to get adapted to the rapidly changing world. The abundance of unfounded phobias and lack of tolerance, pretty much closed and infantile society also are among the main reasons spurring the emigration. It is a paradox: I am not missing Lithuanians, but I do miss Lithuania and its wonderful nature,” says a post by Aleksandras Zelenskis. He adds: «Lithuanians will have long and tediously grow before it gets matured. Lithuania will disappear from the world if it fails to walk step-to-step with the time.»
New trends are good
Approached by BNN, Mantvydas Bekešius, the deputy Foreign Minister, said that while some of the trends have remained –the survey has been conducted for the third time- some of the new trends are «heartening and encouraging.»
«For example, compared to the previous survey, the number of those expats believing that the conditions to cherish Lithuanian nationality bettered recently has risen from 80 to 87 percent. It was very heartening to hear that 90 percent of Lithuanians would like to deal with Lithuanian institutions in the countries of their current stay. That’s a lot and it means that the people want to foster their roots. Slightly over 60 percent of the respondents pointed out they have schooled their children, or still do it, in Lithuanian schools abroad. It marks an insignificant increase from the last survey and brings hope that Lithuanians over the border do care about their origin, language and culture,» Bekešius summed up.