The Lithuania prime minister bemoaned his shrinking population Monday, as the results of a census revealed it has fallen 10 percent in the past decade.
"Unfortunately, we must admit that Lithuania is not only an emigrating nation but also a nation that is dying out," Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius said.
Lithuania's statistics agency said the population is now 3.05 million, down from over 3.4 million in 2001. Twenty years ago, when the country split from the Soviet Union, the country had 3.7 million people.
Results of the census - conducted from March to May - confirmed that rapid emigration and a falling birth rate continue to erode the country's demographics despite membership in the European Union and improvements to the quality of life over the past 10 years.
Large communities of Lithuanians have sprouted in places such as Ireland and England during this time.
"We have lost 700,000 (people) in 20 years - this is a lot for such a small nation," said Romas Lazutka, a sociology professor at Vilnius University.
"The main driving force behind emigration is outdated economic and social policies. Those who do not have a job or cannot make ends meet, even while working, leave this country," he said.
Agence France-Presse went into more detail, describing the economic consequences.
The slump is a concern for the country's centre-right government, which is at the helm of a tough austerity drive brought in after Lithuania plunged into one of the deepest recessions in the European Union in 2009.
The economy has gradually emerged from the doldrums after the sharp crisis.
"It is very important that those people who left Lithuania in large numbers keep ties with Lithuania and see opportunities to come back," Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius told reporters on Monday. Analysts warn that the population decline may impede the economic recovery.
"The population decrease has been very rapid due to negative demographic trends, but emigration is probably even more important," Rimantas Rudzkis, chief analyst at the bank DnB Nord in Lithuania, told AFP.
"Such a decline will have negative consequences. Lithuania will be lacking workforce and that may deter investment," he added. The emigration trend started after EU entry in 2004.
[. . .]
Few have returned, despite the host countries' own economic slumps. Statistics showed that 83,500 people left Lithuania in 2010, mostly to Britain and Ireland.
Officials have said that may include people who left earlier but made the move official to avoid the Lithuanian government's new drive to collect taxes from undeclared emigrants.
Economic convergence between poor and rich countries--within the European Union, without--isn't inevitable. The sort of mass emigration that not only sharply reduces the size of the workforce but worsens problems of population aging can certainly harm a country's prospects.