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Emigration has struck all of Lithuania, however certain regions will be impacted particularly much in the future.

Vilnius University Department of Geography and Land Management docent Rolandas Tučas performed a forecast research for Lithuanian population change in 2017-2021. He observed that more rapid growth in older (65 years old and above) residents is typical for municipalities whose population counts rose rapidly in the Soviet era (due to young working age individuals moving to work there).

He spoke on this in a presentation of his research at the Ministry of Education and Science.

Working age population declines across Lithuania

"The undoubtedly largest Lithuanian demographic problem is the decline of working age (15-64 year old) residents. It is predicted that in 2017-2021 the number of working age residents in Lithuania will decline by a whole 8.76%." the researcher said.

According to him, the reasons for this are negative net migration and the country's demographic structure. In other terms, the pre-retirement age group is particularly large.

"The number of young and middle age residents will decline the most in the working age group, while the pre-retirement (60-64 years old) group will increase in number. It is predicted that the number of working age individuals will only increase in the municipalities of Klaipėda region, Kaunas region and Neringa. The greatest declines will be seen in North and North-East Lithuanian municipalities," R. Tučas explained in presented documents.

That said, certain municipalities would be struck particularly painfully.

Workforce decline by a quarter

"Firstly it is that Lithuanian major cities, as well as those municipalities whose administrative centres grew still in the 8-9th decades of the 20th century as important industrial centres (Mažeikiai, Jonava and others). Looking at the demographic structure of their residents one can see that they have no great lack of residents born during the Second World War. A good example is Mažeikiai region municipality (7.7%)," the researcher pointed out.

It is predicted that there will be a marked decline in working age residents in Visaginas municipality as well. Here a 24.1% decline will be observed.

"This municipality's exceptionality in the broad Lithuanian context will be based on the unique demographic structure of Visaginas residents – a relatively numerous older working age (older than 50) resident group. Up to 2022, a large part of this demographic group will enter retirement. There will also be a large increase in pre-retirement age (60-64) residents," R. Tučas pointed out.

Municipalities which will lose the most workforce

Unlike Visaginas municipality, Pasvalys region municipality is one of the many municipalities which have the demographic age structure typical to rural Lithuanian municipalities, the presenter explained.

"So far Pasvalys region municipality was one of those which lost working age residents (as residents in general) at the fastest rate. It is predicted that for the coming few years these negative trends will continue. In 2017-2021 Pasvalys region municipality will lose a whole 14.7% of working age (15-64 years old) residents.

However there are a few other municipalities (Skuodas region, Akmenė region, Joniškis region, Kelmė region and others) where even more rapid working age population losses are expected," R. Tučas outlined.

Retiree numbers may almost double

Meanwhile the Klaipėda region municipality will be notable for the growth of its older working age residents.

"For example the number of pre-retirement age (60-65 years old) residents may reach up to 45%. This would be influenced by the demographic structure of the municipality's residents and suburbanisation processes – often higher income middle or older aged residents settle in suburbs.

Klaipėda region municipality will also be notable for one of the most rapid growths of retirees (65 years and older)," the researcher warned.

That said, for example Kėdainiai region municipality will see a significantly slower increase in older working age (older than 50) residents than other Lithuanian municipalities.

"For example the number of residents aged 60-64 will rise by 9%, while the number of those slightly younger will actually decrease," R. Tučas pointed out.

Decline less notable near major cities

It is predicted that population numbers will decline less rapidly in municipalities near the major cities. This is particularly true for those, which enter the suburbanisation zones of the major cities.

"For example the broad suburbanisation zone of Vilnius city includes the East part of Trakai region municipality, thus this municipality's age demographic structure is reminiscent of that in the "ring" regional municipalities around Lithuanian major cities. Here the decline in working age residents is not as notable as in most rural or even city (except Vilnius) municipalities.

It is predicted that Trakai region municipality will see a decline in working age population of 7.3%," the researcher said.

Idea for the government: let us remember the "silver" economy

Upon completing the research, R. Tučas found that in 2017-2021 the greatest growth in Lithuania would be seen in the pre-retirement age (60-64 years old) age group.

"Pre-retirement age group growth will be typical among all Lithuanian municipalities, however the "ring" municipalities, as well as Samogitian and South Lithuanian municipalities will be notable for their growth rates. Relatively slower growth rates will be notable in the North and North-East Lithuanian municipalities," he noted.

According to the scientist, the growth of older working age and retiree residents should encourage the state and employers to create conditions that are more favourable for older residents who desire to remain in the labour market longer ("silver" economy).

Warnings for social security

Furthermore, it is predicted that in 2017-2021 the percentage of retirees in Lithuania will grow to 2.35%.

"Considering that at the same time the most numerous residential group will be pre-retirement age (60-64 years old) and the fact that the average lifespan of Lithuanian residents is increasing, the number of retirees will grow even more rapidly in the long term perspective. This is excellent news, however the state social security system must be adequately prepared," the presenter warned.

R. Tučas also emphasised that changes in the number of retirees will not be even across the regions. Municipalities that so far had relatively more youth will see more of a rise in older age groups, while those with older residents (Northeast, South Lithuania) will see declines.

Old trends

The primary aim for R. Tučas' demographic research is the demographic trend analysis of Lithuanian regions seeking to model the changes of Seimas single mandate electoral districts prior to the coming 2020 Seimas elections, however it has turned out to be a curious reflection of emigration.

The research made use of data from Statistics Lithuania, analysing what trends could be seen from 2012 to 2016. The extrapolation method was employed – conclusions found in observing one part of a phenomenon were applied to another part of it, another territory or a future period.

"In 2012-2016 we observed trends of rapid population decline, demographic aging. The number of residents in various demographic groups declined unevenly: mostly young and middle aged resident numbers decreased while the number of older working age and retirees increased," R. Tučas explained.

According to him, back then the most rapid population decline was seen in peripheral Lithuanian border municipalities, North and Northeast Lithuania. The number of residents only grew in "ring" municipalities surrounding Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipėda, as well as the Vilnius city and Neringa municipalities. This was most influenced by domestic residential migration and suburbanisation processes.

"North and South Lithuania have relatively more older residents. On average the youngest residents are found in the Vilnius-Kaunas area, Sudovia and the Western, Central parts of Samogitia," the researcher analysed 2012-2016 data.

Rapid declines in young and middle aged residents

It is predicted that in 2017-2021 the population change trends will remain the same.

"The most rapid decline will be seen in the young and middle working age groups, growth will be seen among older working age and retiree groups. Clear declines in birth rates will also be observed. Natural demographic drift will have increasing influence on the decline in population and the shift in demographic structure," the researcher summarised.

The reasons for the demographic changes are the differing demographic structures in the regions and both internal and international migration, he stated.

Why small municipalities were not discussed at more length

That said R. Tučas pointed out that while we wish to find the prognostic metrics for the small Lithuanian municipalities (Neringa, Birštonas, Pagėgiai), they should be interpreted carefully – due to small population numbers even relatively small changes in absolute metrics have fairly significant impacts as a whole.

"Furthermore the demographic structure of some of the small municipalities are greatly influenced by circumstances unique to them (such as Neringa municipality – taxes for ferrying over to the Curonian Spit, which often influence people's choice in declared place of residence," the researcher noted.

According to him, this is why the small Lithuanian municipalities are not discussed at greater length.

"Oftentimes declaration of residence is only a formality (for example a large portion of Lithuanian student age individuals actually studies and works in Lithuanian major cities, however formally declare their place of residence as being at their parents' home). A similar situation is typical in the municipalities next to the major cities. Lithuanian major cities (especially Vilnius) in fact have far more residents (particularly young individuals) than formal residential declarations show.

Factual residents living near Lithuanian major cities also often declare their place of residence as being in the major city's municipality in order to obtain better conditions for their children to access education. Furthermore, Vilnius differs from other major cities in that it has a very broad suburbanisation zone, which includes not just Vilnius region municipality, but also Trakai region, Elektrėnai region and the extensive Vilnius city municipality suburb areas. Thus, this fact also has an influence on the demographic distribution in around the Vilnius region. However the municipalities of major cities and those around them are important, thus (regardless of the earlier comments) they are discussed in this report," he explained.

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