• January 27, 2022
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Population census: Poles remain the largest national minority in the country

The largest number of people live in Vilnius and Vilnius County, moreover Poles continue to be the largest national minority in Lithuania – according to data from the census of population and housing conducted by the Department of Statistics.

Lithuania still remains a nationally and religiously homogeneous country, although the number of people with non-Lithuanian citizenship who permanently live in our country has increased. Currently, citizens of 133 countries live in Lithuania, while in 2011 the number was 108. Lithuanian citizens account for 99.4 percent of permanent residents of the country, while 84.6 percent of residents declare Lithuanian nationality. Nevertheless, despite many concerns, Poles remain the largest national minority in the country.

 – These are good data for national minorities. Despite the great emigration, and the demographic decline, Poles are still faithful to their culture, language and customs. They still remain Poles, despite the tendencies unfavorable to them. – comments on the demographic situation for “Kurier Wileński” Marek Kubiak, head of the departament in Vilnius ZPL.

In percentage terms, the number of Poles decreased by 0.1 percentage points over 10 years, from 6.6 percent in 2011 to 6.5 percent in 2021,, which equals just under 20 thousand people.

In 1989, when the last census of the USSR residents was compiled, there were 258,000 inhabitants of Polish nationallity in Lithuania. In 2001, when the first census was carried out in independent Lithuania, the number dropped to 234,000. Over the next 10 years, the number of Poles in Lithuania decreased to just over 200,000. people. Most residents – 74 percent, declares that they belong to the Catholic Church.

Emigration and demographic decline

The Department of Statistics published data on the general population and housing census. The tendency is that the number of residents continues to shrink. As of January 1, 2021, there were 2,810,761 people permanently residing in the country. This means that within 20 years, i.e. since the first census conducted in 2001, the number of residents decreased by one fifth – 673.2 thousand people. Over the last 10 years, the number of citizens has decreased to 232.6 thousand people, i.e. by 7.6 percent. The main reasons for the decreasing number of inhabitants, according to the Department of Statistics, are economic migration and negative birthrate. In the last decade, 118.900 people left the country, and 113.700 people were born.

A quarter of all residents live in the Vilnius county, the least, however, live in the Tauragė county, whose inhabitants constitute only 3.3% of the country’s population. It is worth noting that in the Vilnius county there is the largest village in Lithuania, Skojdziszki, which currently constitutes of 4,051 residents. The other two villages, with a similar number of inhabitants, are located in the Kaunas district. The greatest decline in the population was noted in the Pagėgiai municipality – 21.7%, in the Skuodas municipality  – 21.1%, and in the Pakruojis municipality  – 20.7%.

 – The very tendency for people to travel to cities is typical of modern societies. Urbanization is one of the features of modernization. However, modernization does not mean the absence of major dramas. People move to the city because they want to create a safe and prosperous life, but living in the city is also characterized by more competition and various forms of social inequality. For example, life is more focused on young people, while for the elderly, living in the city is full of challenges, therefore the urbanization process is not clear-cut – says sociologist Karolis Dambrauskas, a junior fellow at the Lithuanian Center for Social Sciences, in an interview with “Kurier Vilnius”.

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Moving to the suburbs?

Dambrauskas emphasized that the process of suburbanization is taking place in parallel with the urbanization process, when the residents leave the jammed, unfriendly and stressful city center to live in more peaceful and greener suburban towns.

The number of residents increased only in six local governments: Neringa – an increase of 40.4%, Palanga – 6.4%, Klaipėda region – 11%, Kaunas region – 7.4%, Vilnius – 3.9%, and Vilnius region – 1%. In this case, we see quite a large disproportion between the Vilnius region and other regions located around the country’s large cities.

 – Such a small increase in the Vilnius region is surprising. Perhaps people are moving there, but they are still registered in Vilnius because here they have better access to certain public services? – the sociologist wonders.

Vilnius is the only one of the five large cities in Lithuania (Kaunas, Klaipeda, Panevėžys, Šiauliai) where the number of inhabitants has not decreased in the last 10 years. Officially now 546.200 people live in the capital of Lithuania, which makes up for one fifth of the country’s population. Among the largest cities, the largest decrease was recorded in Panevėžys – 10.6%, Šiauliai – 7.9%, Klaipeda – 6.4%, Kaunas – 5.5%. Officially, there are currently 16,000 rural villages in Lithuania, and 894,000 people live in the countryside. For ten years, the rural population decreased by 118,000 people, and 700 villages were removed from the town register.

According to Dambrauskas, the current trends show that the province will continue to be depopulated.

 – The fact that the number of inhabitants in cities is increasing can be described as the optimization of society. It means that people move from villages and towns to big cities, because they have more opportunities here. This means that there is a programmed further disappearance of regions, where the “disappearance” of people will be accompanied by the disappearance of infrastructure and public services.. It can be assumed, however, that over time, more affluent city residents will choose to live in regions, especially in towns located next to larger cities, and will continue to work in the cities. In order to make life in the regions more attractive, adequate infrastructure for living should be maintained. Therefore, the question arises, is it really worth rushing with optimization of public services in the region? – comments Karolis Dambrauskas.

Read more:  Will the universal census be credible?  

Gender and education

There are more women than men. In 2021, 46.4 percent of residents were men, while women consisted 53.6 percent of the society. Since the 2011 census, the number of men have fallen by 7 percent and number of women by 8.2 percent. Currently, there are 1,154 women per 1,000 men. Moreover, number of people with higher education have increased by 6 percent. The largest number of people with higher education live in the capital city government, where 372 per 1,000 people have earned higher education. Further places are occupied by residents of Neringa (354), Kaunas (319), and Palanga (299).

In its report, the Department of Statistics emphasizes that the data refer to the state of January 2021, i.e. from the hard lockdown period, which was in effect nationwide at the time. For the first time, direct visits by census representatives were abandoned, and only data from official registers were collected. Which resulted in a total of 13 registers. The project cost around EUR 1.36 million, which is six times less than ten years ago.

Translated by Marta Graban within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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