Which social class do you consider yourself to be? 1.3 million – more than half of all Lithuanians – feel middle class. That’s according to a survey conducted in February. However, a few years ago, 4 per cent more people considered themselves middle class. And yet, to feel dignified, Lithuanians would like to have an income about 50 per cent higher than today. However, according to experts, people are less dissatisfied with their income now than they were a couple of years ago, Raminta Gecevičiūtė writes in TV3.lt.
Girls taking a picture in the middle of the week in a champagne bath could probably say they are doing as well as the 1 million 300,000 Lithuanians – more than half of the country’s population – who belong to the middle class. Using the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s definition, this is a population earning between EUR 983 and EUR 2,621 brutto.
“In a decade, the middle class has grown from around 50 per cent to 61 per cent,” comments Nerijus Mačiulis, an economist at Swedbank.
The fact that the population feels and considers itself to be middle class is also shown by a survey conducted by Swedbank’s Institute of Finance in February. More than half – 55 per cent – of Lithuanians said they are middle class. However, more people considered themselves middle class 2 years ago – 59 per cent. People interviewed by TV3 news also identified themselves as middle class. Some of them say they have never lived better than now:
“I’m not very happy, but because I have a husband, I’m very happy – and I’m happy because I’ve worked, and I’m still working now.”
“Well, what do you say. It’s only getting better. Compare then.”
“Of course, it’s getting better. There’s no question about it, although I can hear the wailing all around me all I want. I don’t have a car, but I don’t want one. I don’t have a big flat, but I don’t want to have one. It’s all about wants.”
“You could do some better repairs so you could travel more.”
“What gives you that feeling of being middle class? – Well, it’s probably the fact that in the middle of the working week, you can have fun and spend time with your wife in the old town.”
The mood of those living in smaller towns is somewhat more sombre:
“I’m already in the retirement group. I’m in the middle, but that’s no thanks to Lithuania. – And to whom? – Ireland.”
“There is little or nothing missing. – So maybe you belong at the top? – No.”
“Lower class, not superior.”
“I’m a civil servant. That’s not so bad. I would like to earn and spend more.”
The survey also showed that 26 per cent of Lithuanians who identify themselves as lower middle class feel very worried about their income, which is barely enough to live on. However, the number of those who would classify themselves as the upper-middle class has risen from 9 per cent to 11 per cent in two years.
“7 out of 10 say that for me, we have enough money for basic needs, but we have to save to buy something more important. On the other hand, 20 per cent say we don’t save too much anymore, or another 3 per cent who may not worry about finances at all,” says Jūratė Cvilikienė, Head of Swedbank’s Institute of Finance.
Even those who classify themselves as middle class or upper-middle-class say that their income should still grow in the future in order for them to feel dignified. However, the number of people who would like to have a higher income has decreased. The non-poor said in 2020 that their income should grow by 90 per cent, while this year, it is around 70 per cent. The middle class said two years ago that their income should increase by 57 per cents, this year by 53 per cent.
“Satisfaction with one’s situation is higher than it was because the desire for income growth is not as strong or as much expressed as it was in 20 years”, says J. Cvilikienė.
And how much more would those in the middle class like to earn?
“About 500, that’s for sure.”
“No, you can’t go higher than that. There is no higher – it’s only the business people who go higher, and I’m just a doctor. For a family, about 2.5 thousand. – Here is the middle class? – Yes.”
“It should be over 1,000 for the middle class, well, that’s an allowance for going out and going to the theatres and excursions. Not just in Lithuania, but elsewhere.”
“We both have 1800 pensioners, and everything is fine, and we enjoy life.”
“At least 3 thousand euros.”
“Income. Opportunities. Not having to wait for a salary, not having to wait for an advance, being able to afford to go on holiday, maybe twice a year.”
Nerijus Mačiulis says that the middle class is defined by income and wealth and lifestyle. According to Swedbank data, more than one-third of the population currently has financial assets above the EUR 2,000 threshold. Over the past year, the amount of deposits has increased by one third, and the number of people investing in securities has increased several times. On the other hand, wealth inequality remains high in the country, with as many as 54 per cent of the population not having more than EUR 1,000 in savings.