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

Baltic News Network - - News -

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.

Pan­therMe­dia/SCANPIX

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.

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