VILNIUS - The Statistics Department reported this week that some 615,000 residents, 18 percent of the population, lived below the poverty line in 2005.
Department director Algirdas Semeta told reporters that almost 9 percent of employed residents, 59 percent of unemployed and 10 percent of pensioners lived in poverty. What's more, he said 39 percent of the country's poorest had three or more children. But as Semeta explained, the country's system of social security kept the numbers down.
"After deducting social benefits from income, the relative poverty line in Lithuania jumps to 23.7 percent. Social benefits had the biggest influence on the relative poverty line of households with children, especially one-parent families and families with three or more children," he said.
Semeta said that, compared to other EU countries, Lithuania ranks near the bottom of the list along with Ireland, Portugal and Slovakia in terms of poverty risk.
"It should be noted that it is relative poverty, so a pauper in Ireland would be a rich person in Lithuania," he pointed out.
In Latvia, the government recently raised the minimum monthly wage from 90 to 120 lats (171 euros) in order to compensate for rising consumer prices and to decrease the number living below the poverty level.
Latvia's minimum wage is among the lowest in the EU.