"We must be afraid to say it openly: the number of emigrants grew significantly, especially in April and other months, when the draft to the Lithuanian army began. I think it was the most important factor for youths. Some of them thought and decided that they could spend some time working abroad," Butkevičius told LRT radio on Tuesday.
Last year, in March, was also when the Lithuanian army reintroduced military conscription and drafted some 3,000 young men to perform a 9-month service.
Butkevičius also thinks that comparatively low wages and limited employment opportunities also played a role in people's decision to leave Lithuania.
"I believe that the best incentive to return or not to leave is the creation of jobs and growing wages. Our companies amassed massive profits last year, €3.3 billion I think. [...] There are financial resources, therefore, to raise workers' wages," Butkevičius said.
No emigration due to conscription this year
Meanwhile economist Jekaterina Rojaka says that conscription this year should not cause a hike in emigration. The list of potential conscripts this year was released by the Ministry of National Defence on Monday.
"We should not see a surge of emigration this year. The conscripts' comments about the service have been quite positive," Rojaka told the daily Verslo Žinios, adding that the military draft last year somewhat distorted seasonal migration.
She said that the government must discuss measures to reduce emigration and adopt a policy of immigration in order to tackle potential labour shortages.