From leaders to underachievers – how Lithuanians feel at the bottom of the EU

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Lithuania is one of the poorest members of the European Union in statistics terms. Part of the public still feels nostalgia for the Soviet era, when based on our achievements we were in the lead compared to the other the Soviet republics.

Based on the average net monthly wage, Lithuania is 23 out of 28 EU member states Vilmantas Venckūnas reported in the TV3.lt news portal.

Lithuania has near the largest income inequality of the Union’s countries. Our country is also among the countries with the largest number of people living under the poverty line.

Most important – personal wealth

However, it appears that Lithuanians are a little concerned over the poor statistics. Head of the Labour Market Research Institute, professor Boguslav Gruževski tells tv3.lt that here, the people primarily rate their quality of life not based on the country’s place on some statistics chart.

“Lithuanians, Germans and Danes are less concerned with their country’s statistics and more with how much money they have in their accounts, how much they earn for their efforts at work and to what extent they can satisfy their needs,” the professor told tv3.lt.

According to him, while this criterion is far more important than any other while talking about how people feel, various statistic metrics can impact people’s motivation. B. Gruževski explains that if a person opens up the statistics for European Union countries and sees Lithuania in the bottom half, it can have two outcomes.

The professor explained that this can either lead to low expectations, relative to the poor statistics or, at the same time, it could instead encourage to strive for the more, question what we could achieve.

According to him, if Lithuanians do rate their lives worse, it’s not because their country is in lower positions, but because they are not content with their own circumstances. B. Gruževski says that how people feel and rate their circumstances is also greatly impacted how the country’s government views the poor statistics.

“If the citizens do not see actions that would increase these metrics, it increases their discontent. If they see the government enacting changes, it improves how they feel,” B. Gruževski said.

Not spurring on emigration

The professor disagreed that the poor statistics Lithuania has achieved could be spurring on emigration. According to him, the reasons often lie much deeper.

“Inclination toward emigrating could form in childhood,” he noted.

B. Gruževski mused that part of people could choose to seek their fortune abroad if they faced insufficiency during childhood, were bullied by their peers. Bullying and a hostile environment are, according to him, factors, which encourage some Lithuanians to choose to emigrate.

“They dream of leaving, it matters not what the situation here is. Emigration is an excellent opportunity to forget everything and start anew elsewhere. Where you are valued based on your achievements and capabilities. Such people are often successful,” the professor said.

B. Gruževski added that how people feel is always linked to their relationship with their environment and not with statistics.

“In statistics, they only seek confirmation that things are going badly,” the head of the Labour Market Research Institute said.

Still feeling nostalgia

The head of the public opinion survey company Vilmorus, sociologist Vladas Gaidys told tv3.lt that the citizens practically always view their economic circumstances and prospects as being better than the countries.

“Your own situation you know well. You try to do something then, pursue something. As for the country’s situation, you find out from the news media,” he said.

According to the sociologist for Lithuanians, the most prominent topics emerging in surveys are price increases and income. V. Gaidys stated that before, our countrymen were mostly concerned over unemployment and high crime rates.

If in the context of the European Union, Lithuania is statistically at the bottom of the barrel, during the times of Soviet occupation, our country was viewed as one of the most progressive and economically strong among the soviet republics.

V. Gaidys believes that this does not encourage sentimental feelings toward the soviet past for Lithuanian citizens. The main reason is that the soviet era ended 28 years ago, the old generation is stepping back and the other part of Lithuanian citizens either have no recollection of those times or hadn’t even been born yet.

“But among older people, you still find nostalgia. For example, they say that the sweets Karakum were tastier back then. And you can’t prove otherwise, they won’t change their mind,” the sociologist told tv3.lt.

Estonians more optimistic

V. Gaidys has noticed a curious trend across various studies when Lithuanians are asked if they view themselves as Europeans.

“The question of whether they view themselves as Europeans is unusual for Lithuanians. They say that they definitely are, after all, we’re not Asians. But if you ask them again, concerns emerge: “What sort of Europeans are with, given such pensions? Is this a European wage?” he remarked on situations emerging during survey work.

According to the sociologist, Lithuanians view their own and their country’s condition far worse than Estonians.

“In Estonia, to be unhappy, have a negative outlook on your activities or the future is something not included in that culture,” V. Gaidys said.

According to him, this occurred because Lithuania is a Catholic country, while in Estonia, Protestant culture is prevalent. V. Gaidys believes that in countries, where the Protestant faith is prevalent, ones such as the Scandinavian countries or the USA, it is atypical to complain or not try to change anything.

Based on the Department of Statistics, the average monthly wage after tax is 802.7 euro in Lithuania, among European Union citizens, lower earnings can be found in Latvia, Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria.

We also are among the leaders in income inequality alongside Bulgaria, while based on the number of people living below the poverty line, we are only better off the aforementioned Bulgaria, Greece and Romania.

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