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