Lithua­nia makes an­other at­tempt to stem em­i­gra­tion, ease youth‘s em­ploy­ment

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Amid ex­o­dus of youth to more de­vel­oped Western Euro­pean coun­tries able to pro­vide a bet­ter liveli­hood, the Lithua­nian gov­ern­ment scram­bles to find ways to keep the pop­u­la­tion, and es­pe­cially so its young peo­ple, in the home­land.

Con­sid­er­ing ad­verse ef­fects on the na­tional econ­omy, so­cial wel­fare sys­tem, as well as the coun­try’s na­tional and so­cial de­vel­op­ment caused by a com­pli­cated de­mo­graphic sit­u­a­tion, the Lithua­nian Par­lia­ment this week has en­dorsed the Strat­egy for the De­mo­graphic, Mi­gra­tion, and In­te­gra­tion Pol­icy for 2018–2030.

The strat­egy spans 17 tar­gets and con­sists of 116 pro­vi­sions. It ought to be adopted by 1 De­cem­ber, 2018.

It is one of many strate­gies aim­ing to stem em­i­gra­tion and boost youth em­ploy­ment in the coun­try.

To re­mind, in early 2018, the Lithua­nian MPs passed leg­is­la­tion en­abling young fam­i­lies to ac­quire af­ford­able hous­ing in the Lithua­nian prov­inces and the draft doc­u­ment of this week sets out a series of mea­sures to in­te­grate suc­cess­fully ado­les­cents into the job mar­ket.

For ex­am­ple, it en­vi­sions em­ploy­ment in­cen­tives, such as sub­sidised em­ploy­ment, sup­port for ac­qui­si­tion of pro­fes­sional skills, pub­lic works and job ro­ta­tion pro­grammes. Im­por­tantly, young work­ers, who ap­ply for their first job, would be ex­empted from so­cial se­cu­rity pay­ments, which now ac­count for nearly third of a wage in Lithua­nia, ac­cord­ing the draft.

In the Seimas (Lithua­nian Par­lia­ment), 77 MPs voted for it, 24 ab­stained and 3 were against.

The Chan­cellery of Lithua­nian gov­ern­ment be­lieves the mea­sures, the so­cial se­cu­rity tax ex­emp­tion in par­tic­u­lar, would en­cour­age lo­cal em­ploy­ers to hire job mar­ket novices, of­ten with­out a proper ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge.

«The chief pur­pose of the strat­egy is to en­sure pos­i­tive changes in the pop­u­la­tion num­bers and ap­pro­pri­ate pro­por­tions in age of the em­ployed,» says a state­ment is­sued by the Chan­cellery.

If suc­cess­ful, the mea­sure is thought to mo­ti­vate young peo­ple to stay in the coun­try, tight wed­ding knots and raise fam­i­lies and plan their fu­ture in Lithua­nia.

«The statis­tics pur­port that young peo­ple leave for abroad af­ter grad­u­at­ing the school or the uni­ver­si­ties due to the in­abil­ity to suc­cess­fully study and work at the same time. In or­der to re­duce youth-re­lated em­i­gra­tion, it is ur­gent to make sure that tran­si­tion from the school to the labour mar­ket is smooth and well thought-out. It can be done through ac­tive, youth-tai­lored labour mar­ket poli­cies,» the state­ment reads fur­ther. Specif­i­cally, the strat­egy en­vi­sions changes of se­condary school cur­ric­ula, with the em­pha­sis to be placed on de­vel­op­ment of school­child­ren‘s prac­ti­cal skills.

The doc­u­ment es­pe­cially tar­gets young Lithua­nian expats and aims to bring them back to Lithua­nia.

The strat­egy also strives to im­prove the eco­nomic wel­fare, so­cial se­cu­rity, and psy­cho­log­i­cal/emo­tional well-be­ing of the Lithua­nian pop­u­la­tion; strengthen their bond with the coun­try and liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment; and pur­sue an ef­fec­tive di­as­pora pol­icy.

It also ad­dresses de­mo­graphic chal­lenges, seeks to in­crease the low fer­til­ity, re­duc­ing em­i­gra­tion, pro­mote re­turn mi­gra­tion, and im­prove the qual­ity of life of the se­nior pop­u­la­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the res­o­lu­tion, from 1992, when the pop­u­la­tion in Lithua­nia was at the peak of 3.706 mil­lion peo­ple, the num­ber of peo­ple dropped by 23 per cent to 2.848 mil­lion on 1 Jan­u­ary 2017. In 25 years’ time, Lithua­nia lost 859,000 in­hab­i­tants or the cur­rent pop­u­la­tion of Vil­nius and Kau­nas com­bined. Should the cur­rent trend re­main un­changed, the pop­u­la­tion in Lithua­nia will only be 2.4 mil­lion in 2030, ac­cord­ing to Euro­stat, which rep­re­sents an­other 15 per cent de­cline com­pared to 2017.

One more prob­lem to be ad­dressed is the un­favourable change in the age struc­ture of the pop­u­la­tion, which means less chil­dren and more se­nior peo­ple. The strat­egy states that at the be­gin­ning of 2017, Lithua­nia had 550,200 peo­ple in the age group of 65 and above. The share of this age group in the to­tal num­ber of per­ma­nent res­i­dents grew from 15.8 per cent in 2005 to 19.3 per cent in early 2017.

There were 130 se­niors for 100 chil­dren in early 2017 (93 for 100 chil­dren in 2005). Based on the fore­casts of Euro­stat, it can be es­ti­mated that in 2030 there will be 45.865 peo­ple aged 65 and above for 100 peo­ple in the age group of 15–64.

How­ever, crit­ics say the new strat­egy will not work as it is too clumsy and bu­reau­cratic. Lithua­nia has passed sim­i­lar mea­sures in the past and none of them ap­peared to be ef­fec­tive, they point out. Among crit­ics is econ­o­mist and the pres­i­den­tial hope­ful Aušra Maldeikienė, who has called the strat­egy «a dead doc­u­ment». «It is doomed to fail for a sin­gle rea­son: it tar­gets not hu­mans, but the dead amor­phic and ex­tremely com­pli­cated struc­ture known as eco­nom­ics,» she said.

«The whole doc­u­ment em­beds what a good eco­nom­ics is all about, but it says noth­ing about real peo­ple,» she went on blast­ing the draft be­fore adding: «It was ap­par­ently pen­ciled by a bunch of bu­reau­crats, who were writ­ing it turn­ing ear to the whims of the politi­cians. There­fore, we see so many po­lit­i­cally-catchy terms in the doc­u­ments, like «healthy nour­ish­ment at schools», «fam­ily sup­port» and all the other pop­u­lar mod­ern clichés».

Other crit­ics of the draft strat­egy point out that, with its en­act­ment, so­cial se­cu­rity ser­vice, known as SO­DRA in Lithua­nia, will lose mil­lions in so­cial se­cu­rity taxes. No­tably, the youth ex­empted from them could ex­pect only smaller pen­sions in fu­ture.

As for the hous­ing pro­gramme aim­ing to help young fam­i­lies with af­ford­able hous­ing, some 840 young fam­i­lies ap­plied for grants to buy or build their first homes in Lithua­nian re­gions in three days af­ter the scheme was launched on Septem­ber 1, the So­cial Se­cu­rity and La­bor Min­istry said. Some 111 ap­pli­ca­tions were filed in the district of Kau­nas, 73 in the district of Klaipėda, 67 in the district of Vil­nius and 47 in the district of Panevėžys. The re­main­ing 542 ap­pli­ca­tions were field in other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. The gov­ern­ment has ear­marked 2 mil­lion eu­ros for the scheme for this year and 4 mil­lion eu­ros for 2019, 2020 and 2021 each. The amount of fund­ing may be ad­justed based on the ac­tual need for hous­ing in re­gions and on the state’s fi­nan­cial ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

How­ever, it has its short­com­ings too. Some say pro­gramme leaves room to abuse it and the mech­a­nism as to how the state can claim back the sup­port has not been worked out prop­erly.

REUTERS/SCANPIX

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