Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN
The level of life satisfaction among Lithuanians shrank by 5 percentage points to 70 per cent in late 2016, year-on-year, with the upward pointing prices seen as the chief reason behind the fall, according to a Eurobarometer survey conducted in Lithuania in late 2016.
In total, 1,009 respondents above the age of 15 were polled and the results were made public this week.
«Indeed, the steeping goods prices do not promise anything good. We may wake up some day with the prices being on par to those in Finland, for example, and that the prices in Poland are twice lower than ours. It spells challenges to our state,» says Žygimantas Mauricas, chief economist at Nordea Bank in Lithuania.
He has calculated that the flat repair service costs have risen a whopping 39 per cent over the last three years; meanwhile, the restaurant and café prices went up around 20 per cent during the period, with the medicine prices having grown 17-20 per cent.
«Some of the prices are out of proportion compared to the wage and the standards of living. If the wages will attempt to catch up with the prices, we may end up seeing a «bubble» that we say back in 2007-2009,» the economist cautioned.
In addition, out of control spiralling prices threaten with social tensions and, some say, unrest.
The other key factors that pushed the level of life satisfaction down in the Eurobarometer survey last year were, first, unemployment (its level worried 26 per cent of respondents), second, low pensions (they raised concerns for 21 per cent), third, high taxes (20 per cent were uneasy about them), fourth, the overall economic situation (19 per cent expressed dissatisfaction with it), followed by immigration in the EU (15 per cent raised the issue in the survey).
The level of life satisfaction among Lithuanian residents has been rising over the past two years,hitting a record high of 75 percent in the fall of 2015 before slumping last year.
Yet at the record-highLithuania was behind its closest neighbours, with the life satisfaction level being at 85 percent in Poland, 80 percent in Estonia and 75 percent in Latvia in 2015. The degree was lower just in Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Hungary, Portugal and Romania.
That our northern neighbour, Estonia, has ensconced ahead of Lithuania in most life satisfaction and happiness indexes does not surprises Vladas, Gaidys, director of Vilmorus, a market research and polling company.
«Although 20 years ago, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were effectively in the same starting positions in terms of economy, the Estonians would be ahead of the other two neighbours in similar rankings. Why? I’d support a hypothesis brought up by German scholar Max Carl Weber, who insisted that religious affiliation does play a significant role in the cultural perception of person,» the Vilmorus head has pondered.
He believes that protestant nations, like Estonia, tend to a lesser degree glance over the shoulder to the past and more focus on the time being and the future.
«In other words, protestant nations tend to believe they can forge their future and the nation’s happiness, too. When taking to an Estonian, I will never hear him complaining. In that regard they are like the Americans, although with the Nordic chill on the face,» Gaidys, a sociologist by profession, says.
Approached by BNN and asked about their satisfaction with their lives, Lithuanians voiced similar answers.
«The advantages of living in your country, speaking the language all understand and being able to visit the family and friends whenever I want are more important for me than anything else and they, for me, outweigh the economic issues,» Rasa Gedvilaitė, a journalist in the resort town of Palanga, told BNN. «I just feel very cosy here. I’d never feel good living in emigration,» she added.
Meanwhile, Jūratė Radzevičiūtė, a realtor on coastal Lithuania, singled out, like many other Lithuanians, the acute economic issues.
«You cannot expect people feel good about their lives when the prices of daily goods go up, also daily. It is a bothersome thing, very understandably,» she said.
Asked whether she feels satisfied with her life, the RE expert nodded positively, saying that she has taken the reins of the life in her own hands.
«Working for yourself is more rewarding and, income-wise, often, too. I’d say many Lithuanians do not dare to venture into private business, which often gives more opportunities,» she said.
Meanwhile, Anna Vinkovskienė, psychologist at the psychological centre «Sielos žemėlapis», doubted whether Lithuanians are less happy and content with their lives than Latvians and Estonians.
«What I constantly see in my office is that people tend to complain and whine about what is bad in their life. But once you start talking to them, many of them reveal a lot of positive things in their lives. I am convinced that, in Lithuania, we all have as many reasons to feel content with the life as the neighbours and not only them,» she emphasised to BNN before adding, «Look, people in India are substantially poorer than we, but we could envy their overwhelmingly positive attitudes.»
Yet polls cannot always be trusted. Some other surveys gauging life satisfaction and happiness have portrayed Lithuanians as quite happy persons. For instance, a report published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network a year ago, has concluded that – could anyone believe? – namely Lithuania is the Baltics’ happiest nation.
So who is to believe? Be happy!