Experts warn of a new wave of emigration

  • 2009-04-22
  • By Deimante Doksaite

With the economic situation continuing to decline, many are seeking their fortunes abroad.

VILNIUS - Experts on emigration have warned that the economic downturn is spurring a new wave of emigration from Lithuania. Leaving the country to start a new life abroad is increasingly appealing to more than just first time emigres 's repeat emigrants are also leaving with greater frequency.
 The fact that Western countries are also suffering from the economic crisis does not seem to be stymieing the new wave of Lithuanian emigration, experts say.

At the beginning of the year, the Lithuanian Public Policy and Management Institute conducted a study about the newest trends in economic emigration from Lithuania.

The survey revealed that at least one-third of emigrants intend to return to Lithuania, but not any earlier than 2011. On the other hand, almost 40 percent of returnees would like to emigrate again in the future.
"The longer people live abroad, the weaker is the temptation to return. It is important that the return migration continues and grows in intensity. According to participants of our survey, outside of personal reasons, the improvement of the economic situation and standard of living would be the main factors encouraging them to return," said Dovile Zvalionyte, co-author of the survey.

"But the biggest barrier which hinders return is the high level of corruption and bureaucracy, as well as the uncertain economic prospects and political situation in Lithuania," Zvalionyte said.
The authors of the study say it is an important complement to pre-existing sources of information about Lithuanian emigration. The study, however, is the first attempt to analyze repeated emigration.

The research also revealed the fact that the state's re-emigration policy has not yet had a big influence 's although 70 percent of emigrants maintain a relationship with Lithuania, only 10 percent believe that the connection is the result of the Lithuanian government's efforts. However, one third of emigrants stated that an active public policy would encourage them to return.

According to the principal investigator of the survey, Egidijus Barcevicius, the economic downturn should not be a sufficient reason to stop the state programs that encourage a return to the homeland.
"In our opinion, in this case, we should pay more attention to certain values, not economic or utilitarian arguments. Therefore, we propose that the goals of the state on the question of migration should be based on this approach: the state encourages citizens to create their own wealth at home, but recognizes their right to leave and return. It is understandable that the citizens are looking for possibilities to realize themselves and their skills in the best way and then obtain a sufficient reward for that," Barcevicius said.

"If you manage to make it abroad, but not in Lithuania, this choice must be respected. The state should pursue these two most important things. First: to keep relations as close as possible with those who left and to help them feel a part of some kind of 'global Lithuania.' Second: if emigrants decide to return, the state should assist them with information, etc," he said.

The survey by the Public Policy and Management Institute, and other similar studies done in the past, show that 80's90 percent of Lithuanians have relatives or friends living abroad.
But Zvalionyte said the survey revealed that not as large a number of Lithuanians live abroad as is popularly believed 's various sources claim that about half a million Lithuanians emigrated after the state regained independence.

Zvalionyte said the true number could be half as large, at about 250,000 people. She explains this discrepancy with the observation that before this survey everybody was counting just those who left, but "forgot" to count those who came back.