Breaking point: in the face of Brexit, Lithuanians rapidly returning


After almost half a century of membership, the United Kingdom left the European Union on January 31. In the face of this historic withdrawal, increasingly many Lithuanian citizens, who had emigrated to this country, are deciding to return, work and live in their home country, SBA wrote in a press release.

An important threshold reached

“The number of citizens returning from the United Kingdom has been rapidly rising over the past few years. Based on preliminary data, when comparing last year to the year before, the number of residents arriving in Lithuania from the United Kingdom has jumped by more than a quarter, reaching 9.7 thousand people, while the number of those emigrating from Lithuania to this country has fallen by almost 2 thousand to 10.1 thousand. If the trend continues, 2020 could be the first year in the history of independent Lithuania, where the number of returnees from the United Kingdom will exceed the number of those departing,” Lithuanian Department of Statistics director-general Jūratė Petrauskienė states.

Lithuania registered positive migration figures in the first month of this year as 628 more people arrived in the country than left, according to the latest figures from the country’s statistics service, Statistics Lithuania, released on Monday. 4,050 people arrived in Lithuania last month, and 3,422 left, with Lithuanian citizens making 56.2 and 70.8 per cent of the total respectively.

The newest data from the department of statistics shows that in total, 20.5 thousand citizens returned to Lithuania in 2019, which is a quarter more than in 2018. They comprised more than half of all immigrants. January was the 12th consecutive month when immigration exceeded emigration. The last time a negative migration figure was recorded was in January 2019 when 68 more people left the country than arrived.

Answered the call

Strengthened flows of returnees can be increasingly felt. One of the largest in the company, the SBA Group, began to actively invite emigrated nationals to return home already at the end of last year when passions over Brexit gained momentum.

“We can celebrate that in 2019, in various companies we employed around 110 returned Lithuanian citizens. Most of them are from the UK. Positive sentiments also arise because people are returning not only to the large cities but also smaller ones in the country. Other than Kaunas, Vilnius or Klaipėda, we have returnees in our companies in Visaginas, Utena, Raseiniai, Šilutė city and region. We continue to invite our countrymen to consider the possibility to return to Lithuania,” SBA VP Jolanta Grašienė says.

According to her, just right now, the SBA Group’s companies have several tens of job vacancies. Individuals with various competencies are sought, starting with production equipment operators, ending with technological innovation managers and financial auditors.

Longing and an improved economy attract

Tomas Zinkevičius took a job at the SBA group’s furniture manufacturing company Visagino Linija last year. The Lithuanian, who returned with his family from Birmingham, first settled in Daugavpils. Having been unable to find suitable work in Latvia, he chose Visaginas. Within just half a year, the prospective specialist rose on the career ladder and became a shift manager.

“I worked in emigration in the UK for 15 years and the decision to return was neither quick nor easy. The main reasons that led to it was a longing for our relatives and our home, the desire to raise our children in our homeland, the unsuitable British education and healthcare systems. My decision to return and find employment in Visaginas is something I am glad about to this day because it seems that I replaced only the city, not the country. Views of staff and their evaluation, the LEAN management system used in the company, opportunities to increase qualifications and rise on the career ladder are the same here as they are in the UK,” Visagino Linija shift manager T. Zinkevičius states.

A more significant part considering a return

Lithuanian Community in the United Kingdom chairwoman Dalia Asanavičiūtė predicts that there will be even more returning Lithuanians such as T. Zinkevičius.

“The impact of Brexit could also be indirect on the decision to return. For example, uncertainty whether after separation from the EU, the United Kingdom won’t face a crisis; opportunities to obtain real estate have declined after its prices rose; with rent increases, the ratio of income to expenses is no longer as good as it was a decade ago. Good news from Lithuania about the economy, living standards, wages also have an impact. Surveys show that more than half of nationals are considering a return to Lithuania, however not necessarily in the short term,” D. Asanavičiūtė says.

One of many like this is Artūras Ustinovas, who studied acting and has lived and worked in London for eight years.

“There are already many around me, who returned to Lithuania in recent years and even more are seriously considering such a scenario. I am no exception. Various people are returning. This starts with a factory, café employees and ends with those working in banks, as engineers or artists. The main reasons, which my returning friends and acquaintances name are longing, improving life in Lithuania and exhaustion because of the Brexit soap opera. At the same time, also the uncertainty of what comes next,” A. Ustinovas says.

A personal invitation

According to the Lithuanian Community in the UK chairwoman, there would be more returnees if the active calls of businesses inviting to return, offering specific jobs, there would also be government support for business missions to the United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway and other countries, where there would be direct interactions with the emigrants. According to D. Asanavičiūtė, those with a specific job offer make their decision to return to their homeland much faster.

The United Kingdom’s national statistics service reports that the country is host to 211 thousand Lithuanians. After Brexit, up to December 31 this year, they will have to obtain permanent resident status (for those living for 5 years or above in the country) or the status of a preliminary permanent resident.

The SBA Group is one of the largest in the country, operating in real estate, textile and furniture manufacturing sectors. The group’s companies employ close to 5,000 employees. SBA’s real estate sector includes Urban Inventors, which is developing the Green Hall business valley in Vilnius and the BLC business centre in Kaunas, also the investment management company Capitalica Asset Management, which manages the Kaunas based business centre Kauno Dokas, the Vilnius based 135 and will develop the modern office compound Verde in Riga’s Skanste area close to the city’s centre. Other than Kauno Baldai, the furniture sector is comprised of the SBA Furniture Company, which manages Klaipėdos Baldai, Šilutės Baldai, Germanika, Visagino Linija, Mebelain. The SBA textiles sector is comprised of the innovative apparel manufacturer Utenos Trikotažas together with the companies Šatrija and Mrija. Last year, SBA obtained the robotics solutions company Robotex and founded SBA Modular, which plans to construct modular multi-storey buildings.

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