VILNIUS - New research from Eurostat, the European Unions statistics agency, has shown that Lithuania has one of the fastest shrinking populations in the bloc.
The net decrease in Lithuania's population was 4.8 per 1,000 inhabitants, leaving the country in second place.
Lithuania's population loss was the result of a high death rate combined with the lowest net migration.
Romas Lazutka, a professor of Social Sciences at Vilnius University, said that emigration is what sets it apart from other countries.
"People are trying to find better economic conditions 's rising unemployment and bad government support when you are jobless is an encouragement to leave the country," he said.
"It is attractive to go out because of better jobs and now it is very easy for people because there are already established communities in countries like Ireland, the U.K. and Spain. People have relatives abroad and they can get support and help getting started," he said.
Eurostat data revealed that Lithuania has a negative 2.1 migration rate 's meaning there is a higher emigration than immigration rate 's making it last among all EU member states according to this indicator.
"The situation in Lithuania has improved over the last few years, but still not enough to bring people back. I think they will look for work in other countries like the U.S. instead of coming home," Lazutka said.
While Lithuanian citizens continue to go abroad, non-EU residents are not sufficiently attracted to the country for them to migrate in numbers.
"The difference in wages here is not big enough from other similar countries to attract people. If you compare Lithuania and other Soviet Union and Slavic countries like Ukraine and Belarus. As for Chinese people, it is just as easy for them to go to another EU country as it is for them to come here, so they don't," he said.
One recent immigrant to the country is Farid Vakili from Iran. He came to Lithuania because of his fiance, who is a Lithuanian citizen.
He thinks Lithuania is a difficult country to migrate to.
"It's more difficult here than in other countries in the EU. The doors of opportunity are not easily opened by foreigners. A basic thing is to know the language of course," he said, commenting on the drawbacks of migrating to Lithuania.
"Lithuania is not the hardest country in Europe to move to, but it is not the easiest either. I think one of the positive points though is that Lithuanians have been welcoming to me even with my Middle Eastern heritage," he said.
Only seven countries in Europe had negative growth. Bulgaria had the largest, losing 5 per 1,000 people, while Latvia was third at 4.3.
Lithuania will start 2009 with about 3.35 million inhabitants, 16,000 less than last year.