For the second year in a row, the number of Lithuanian citizens returning to their homeland was higher than the number of those who left. According to the data from the Department of Statistics, in 2021, more than 23.7 thousand people returned to Lithuania, while more than 18.8 thousand people left the country.
“The number of returnees compared to the number of departures started to be recorded only in 2020. For example, the migration of Lithuanian citizens was particularly high in 2017 – 45,000 people left, while only 10,000 returned to Lithuania,” comments Birutė Stolytė, a representative of the Department of Statistics.
In 2021, the largest number of returnees to Lithuania came from the United Kingdom, Norway, Germany and Ireland. The largest migration flows were in Vilnius County: about 5.6 thousand people returned to Lithuania, while about 4.3 thousand people left.
According to Eitvydas Bingelis, Head of the Vilnius office of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), emigrants return to Lithuania for various reasons.
Better conditions for starting a family
“We have to admit that it is easier for families to start families in Lithuania – not only do we have a good quality public infrastructure, but we also have accessible social, healthcare and education services. The length and conditions of parental leave in Lithuania stand out in the context of the European Union (EU) and in the context of the rest of the world,” says Bingelis.
According to the IOM Vilnius Office’s “Renkuosi Lietuvą” project team, more than 60% of those returning to Lithuania choose to settle in regions of the country where all the necessary services, such as kindergartens and schools, are closer to their place of residence.
The importance of education for the country’s population is also reflected in the high rate of higher education, with Lithuania leading the EU in terms of the number of people with a university degree or higher. Last year, 57.6% of people aged 30-34 in Lithuania had completed tertiary or higher education, compared to the EU average of 40%.
However, the biggest incentive for emigrants to return maybe homesickness. According to a survey conducted last year by Spinter Research on behalf of “Renkuosi Lietuvos”, 76% of Lithuanians living abroad would like to return to Lithuania because of their family members and relatives living here.
“Connecting with loved ones is a natural, common human need. Expatriates yearn for the opportunity to communicate freely in their mother tongue and to keep the same family traditions. Often, families with children return just so that their offspring will not forget the Lithuanian language and will be able to communicate with their relatives and loved ones,” says Bingelis.
Settling in your home country can also be financially attractive. Although real estate (RE) in Lithuania is set to rise by 19% in 2021, the opportunities to buy property in Lithuania are still among the best in Europe. Young families returning to the EU can also benefit from state incentives for buying their first home, which can range from 15% to 30%.
The lure of rising wages and business opportunities
“We can also be pleased that there are more and more opportunities to work and earn money in Lithuania, which also encourages emigrants to return. Average wages in Lithuania are among the fastest-growing in the EU. We can see that the gap with the living standards in Western Europe is narrowing – even with lower incomes, people in Lithuania can easily secure prosperity for themselves and their families,” says Bingelis.
In Lithuania, the average wage has grown by more than 8% per year for four consecutive years. According to the Department of Statistics, in 2021, the average monthly salary grew by almost 10% to EUR 1,586 before taxes. This year, average wages are forecast to grow by a further 8.8%.
“Multinational companies are coming to Lithuania, and not only the working environment is changing for the better, but also the relationship between the employer and the employee – there is a growing satisfaction with managers and salaries, as well as with the opportunities to learn and develop,” says the head of the IOM Vilnius office.
Helping those who want to return
“The thought of returning to Lithuania comes up quite often for emigrants. Last year alone, we received around 12,000 enquiries and over one million unique visitors to the “Choose Lithuania” website. People who have left Lithuania are interested in the possibilities of returning, and they are asking what they should do to make their integration after years of emigration as smooth as possible,” says E. Bingelis.
According to Bingelis, many emigrants who have left Lithuania are surprised when they return how much the country has changed in 5-10 years. Those who have lived abroad for longer also need help from specialists.
“The Renkuosi Lietuvos team provides free individual consultations on return-related issues. Expatriates have questions about taxes, benefit levels, and how to register their children for education. We help them to plan the first steps of their return. We can also offer psychological support to those who have doubts or emotional difficulties,” he says.
According to the Department of Statistics, in 2021, 18826 Lithuanian citizens left the country, and 23712 returned. In 2020, there were 15328 departures and 20804 returns.