More Returning Emigrants


The news website reported on June 1 that for the first time since the restoration of independence, there are more Lithuanian citizens returning to the country than leaving it. Government statistics show that in 2022, there were 14,352 returnees, or 13 percent more than the number of emigrants.

According to the Vilnius branch director of the International Organization for Migration – (IOM) Eitvydas Bingelis, Lithuanian migration patterns are not unique. Europe is one of the most active migration regions in the world. Today in all there are more than 281 million migrants – about 3-4 percent of the world’s population.

Migration is a result of people’s increased capability for mobility, but also the expansion of favourable conditions, for example, in the European Union, social insurance can be transferred to other countries. The pandemic opened up the possibility of working remotely, and now the location where work is being done is less important.

Bingelis says that Lithuanian citizens are motivated to return not only because the economic situation there has improved, but health and education services are more accessible than elsewhere. The proximity of friends and family is also an important factor.

Rūta Vainiėnė, director of thr Lithuanian Trade Association noted that economic improvement in the country is one of the main motivators for emigrants to return. Earlier, the economic climate was a major reason for citizens to emigrate. Since they left, those conditions have improved, Lithuania grew rapidly and average wages are close to the European standard, so that leaving the country to make more money is not as necessary.

As to the cost of purchasing real estate, which has risen recently in Lithuania, Vainienė says that the same is true in many other countries, where even higher-income families cannot save enough for a down payment. Yet mortgages are readily available and the infrastructure of the suburbs makes living downtown less essential.

Migration is inevitable, however, because young people often prefer to study and work abroad. This is a result of globalization, but means that if they leave, they can also come back, and foreign experience can be an asset. Returning emigrants have a positive influence both on the job market and on demographic indicators.

“I Choose Lithuania” (Renkuosi Lietuvą) director Edita Urbanovič explains that each year about 15,000 to 20,000 Lithuanian citizens return and stay in Lithuania. Mostly they are young, 30 to 40 years of age, and have reached their goals abroad – to earn money, gain experience, and see the world. Many go back with families, and find that conditions are more conducive to balancing work and home life, with childcare-leave options and quality health care. Surveys show that more than 70 percent of Lithuanians living abroad have not rejected the possibility of moving back. Returning emigrants are also positive for Lithuania because they have a wider worldview, and a more Western social culture, new ideas, and the ability to create new types of work, all of which improves the quality of life in Lithuania.

Social Studies Centre Prof. Boguslav Gruževski stresses that in order to encourage the return of emigrants, society must change its tendency to judge them as having “failed” abroad. There is a popular misconception that anyone returning must be rich. They should not be judged for their assets, but for their motivation to work. He notes that they can also be encouraged to return by means of financial incentives, such as a program Estonia has espoused for 16 years. The “I Choose Lithuania” project offers personal counselling and useful information, but this may not be enough. Returning is as complex a step as emigrating, and requires thoughtful consideration. It is also easier if emigrants have kept up with events and maintained contact with friends and relatives in Lithuania.