True Lithuania

Results of 2011 Lithuanian Census Published

Lithuanian department of statistics published the main results of the decennial census of 2011.

The census highlighted the truly epic scale of Lithuanian emigration. In 2001-2011 decade Lithuania lost 12% of its population (440 600 people). Some three-quarters of this number (9%) left the country (mainly for the Western European labour markets, open to Lithuanians since the country joined the European Union). The remaining decrease (3%) is attributed to low birth rates.

Most of the emigrants are of working age therefore further reducing the birth rate and increasing the strain on economy put by old-age pensioners as their share of the population went from 20% to 21%, an all-time high. At the same time, only 16% of the population is aged under 15, down from 21% in 2001. The average age of Lithuanians increased from 37 to 41 years.

Ethnic composition of Lithuania changed slightly. The share of ethnic Lithuanians increased from 84,2% to 85% of those responding. This increase is likely to be party caused by assimilation as some children of non-Lithuanian parents declare Lithuanian ethnicity. Disproportionately large emigration of some minorities is another reason.

The share of most larger minorities declined with the populations of Soviet era minorities suffering the heaviest setbacks, likely due to emigration to titular homelands (share of Russians went from 6,4% to 5,9%, Ukrainians 0,7% to 0,5%, Belarusians 1,24% to 1,2%). The traditional (i.e. pre-1940) minorities decreased less (Poles from 6,8% to 6,7% and the share of Karaims even increased).

Small minorities saw the largest increase (from 0,1% to 0,15%). They largely consist of new immigrant communities with no pre-1990 populations, e.g. Turks and Chinese. It is likely that their true numbers are even larger due to illegal migration. 154 ethnicities are represented in Lithuania in total (up from 115 in 2001).

In absolute numbers, all the major ethnic communities contracted (most pre-1940 communities by 11% to 15%, primarily Soviet communities by 15% to 30%; the number of ethnic Lithuanians dropped by 12%).

This is in marked contrast to 1989-2001 period (which included the collapse of the Soviet Union). In that era the population of Lithuania declined by 190 000 (5%) but this drop had been mostly fueled by the 1990-1995 departure of Soviet personnel (Soviet ethnic communities declined by some 30% that decade). The numbers of most pre-1940 communities (Lithuanians, Poles), on the other hand, changed only slightly in the 1989-2001 period. In the 1989-2001 economical migration had been relatively minor and it only surged after Lithuania joined the European Union in 2004. Compared to the 1989-2001 the ethnic composition of Lithuania was relatively stable in 2001-2011.

Religion statistics are harder to discern as the number of those not answering the question increased sharply from 6% to 10% (at the same time the option "irreligious" was chosen by 6% of population instead of the previous 10%). The percentage replying "Roman Catholic" decreased from 79% to 77%, the share of Russian Orthodox and Old Believers decreased less while the Protestants gained influence as did the less popular faiths. The total number of religious groups represented increased from 28 in 2001 to 59.

Migration trends meant a decrease of population by 10% to 20% in most municipalities. One exception is Vilnius which declined only by 3% as its emigrants have been replaced by new internal migrants from smaller cities and towns (most of whom prefer to remain in the capital after getting their university or college degrees there).

A trend of suburbanization continued with the population of municipalities around Vilnius, Kaunas, and Klaipėda actually even increasing by 6%-11%. This goes on as more and more Lithuanians leave their cramped Soviet apartments to build their own houses (their availability was limited in 1940-1990 despite the significance of detached family homes in Lithuanian psyche). Some of these suburbs are considered rural for statistical purposes leading to a slight decrease of the total urban population from 66,9% to 66,7%. Villages and towns far from the main cities suffer depopulation, however.

Learning foreign languages took a sharp curve upwards as various multinational companies started working in Lithuania and incoming tourism increased in the 2001-2011. In 2001 25,6% of the population did not speak any non-native language, in 2011 this number was reduced to mere 16,4%; at the same time, the share of those knowing more than one foreign language increased from 29% to 37%. Spoken nearly universally by those over 30 Russian remains the most popular foreign language. However, less than 50% of those between ages 15 and 19 know it while 80% speak English in this age group, demonstrating a major shift in foreign language learning. English have also been eagerly learned by previous generations for better job opportunities and the total share of its speakers nearly doubled from 16,9% in 2001 to 30,4% in 2011.

2011 census results on correlation between age and what foreign languages a person can speak. Native languages are excluded (therefore total numbers of Russian and Polish speakers are larger by 6%-8% than shown here). Diagram by Lithuanian department of statistics.

Marriage is becoming less common due to increasing age of marriage, switch to informal cohabitation, increasing divorce rates and aging population (leading to more widows). The number of married people decreased by 17,3% while the number of those divorced increased by 11,9%, never married by 4,1% and widowed by 0,6% (despite a general decrease in population). In 2001 over 50% of the population above the age of 15 was married (60,7% men and 51,6% women). In 2011 these shares decreased to 54,9% men and 45,9% women.

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