The Lithuanian population is contracting at a record rate. The Baltic country is one of four fastest ageing societies in Europe, while its 2020 birth rate hit a 20-year low.
According to Statistics Lithuania, around 25,000 babies were born in the country last year, the lowest number since 1999. Five years ago, the figure was 30,000, but has been steadily declining.
According to Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, the speaker of the Lithuanian parliament Seimas, the birth rates declined in most European countries.
“These trends are reinforced by the pandemic, which creates a climate of uncertainty, making people feel unsafe,” Čmilytė-Nielsen said in a press conference last week.
The situation is even worse in Lithuanian regions. In 2020, around 70 percent of babies were born in Lithuania’s largest cities Vilnius and Kaunas, and only 30 percent in other regions.
According to the parliament speaker, birth rates are higher in countries that have an adequate long-term family policy focused on the labour market, human rights, equality, and social protection.
“My priority is the family package, which includes initiatives related to human rights, gender equality, as well as making both mothers and fathers able to balance their families and careers in a more flexible way,” Čmilytė-Nielsen said.
In the words of Orinta Leiputė, a member of the Seimas Committee on Health Affairs, the demographic situation in Lithuania is “burning”.
According to her, the planned reform of healthcare institutions, which includes closing down obstetric wards in Lithuanian regions, is also worrying.
“This would create tensions for young families that are planning to have children because if they live in regions, they will not be provided with appropriate services,” Leiputė said.
Asta Speičytė-Radzevičienė, head of the national initiative I Raise Lithuania (Auginu Lietuvą), said that “Lithuania is declining and is among the four fastest ageing countries in Europe”.
“The country's birth rate has been falling drastically year on year, and the coronavirus pandemic has only made it worse,” she said. “Poor psychological health and a genuine fear of getting pregnant might push the demographic curve even lower.”