Lithuania’s Shocking Population Decline (And What’s Causing it) - Lithuania Explained

Lithuania’s Shocking Population Decline (And What’s Causing it)


In October 2020, Lithuanian public broadcaster LRT published an article titled “Is Lithuania the world’s fastest-shrinking country?” The article talks about how, from 2020 to 2025, the United Nations expects Lithuania’s population to decrease at an annual rate of 1% – the opposite direction from the worldwide trend, with the overall global population growing. 

This is noticeable when looking at the various population sizes of Lithuanian towns and cities on Wikipedia. For example, the population of Kaišiadorys in 2020 was around 7,400. The sad thing is that this town had 10,000 residents in 2001 – a decrease of about one quarter! 

But it’s not just Kaišiadorys. The LRT article notes that the Lithuanian population in 2019 was about 75% of what it was in 1991. 

Photo: Vilensija via Wikimedia Commons

Reasons for Lithuania’s population decline

A high level of emigration -people leaving the country to live abroad – is one of the main factors contributing to Lithuania’s shrinking population.

Daumantas Stumbrys from the Lithuanian Social Research Centre told LRT that from 1999 to 2019, there were about 30,000 people leaving Lithuania every year. Making things worse was natural population loss, with more people dying than being born. Stumbrys says this took away another 10,000 people each year.

A 2021 Delfi article states that Lithuania had a population of 2.81 million people as of January 1st, 2021. This was down from 3.043 million in 2011, 3.48 million in 2001, and 3.67 million in 1989.

Lithuanians leaving the country hasn’t been tied to a single phenomenon or reason. However, it’s likely that a decent Lithuanian education system, combined with learning English, and the country’s membership in the European Union, has allowed many Lithuanians to seek better economic opportunities outside of Lithuania’s borders. 

Many Lithuanians moved to other EU countries seeking better opportunities. Photo: faungg’s photos via flickr

And while Brexit has probably done a lot to slow the number of Lithuanians from heading to the UK, many are still headed to countries that are still in the European Union, such as the Netherlands, Ireland, or Germany. Apparently, a lot of Lithuanians also head to Norway too (which isn’t an EU member but is part of the EEA – European Economic Area).

Stumbrys tells the LRT that overall societal health could have also had an influence, telling the media outlet that the country’s historically high suicide rate was an indication that people in Lithuania were unhappy with their lives, and perhaps the conditions in the country.

Are things changing?

The 2020 article by LRT talked about how 2019 had more people coming to Lithuania than leaving it. This positive immigration mainly came from migrants relocating from Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia.

With the events of 2022, there’s a good chance that even more people have since relocated to Lithuania – primarily refugees from Ukraine – but also political refugees from Belarus the year before.

refugees ukainian
Recent population gains have largely been the result of refugees fleeing war. Photo: UN Women via flickr

Additionally, there’s a good chance that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine (and all of the sanctions and political tension that has come with it) has led to fewer Lithuanians considering relocation to Russia. Meanwhile, some Russians have left their homeland for better opportunities and a better government in Lithuania. There might not be many – but there are certainly a few. 

But what are your thoughts on Lithuania’s shrinking population? Do you think the country will soon reach a place where fewer citizens will move away and instead choose to live their lives in Lithuania? Share your opinion by leaving a comment!

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