-08: legalisation/freedom of choice

European integration processes and the opening of EU labour markets heavily affected Lithuanian emigration, and in fact, EU countries are the most popular destinations during this period, with the United Kingdom and Ireland (the first to have opened their labour markets) as absolute leaders. The role of formal and informal migration networks increased (up to 80% of Lithuanian emigrants indicated that they found jobs abroad with the help of already established relatives, friends, etc.). These networks sometimes engaged in direct recruitment or even criminal activity - trafficking in human beings. Although the main causes of migration remained economic (Table 3.1), non-economic reasons such as “professional ambitions”, self-realisation, “adventure”, studies etc. became increasingly important, especially among young migrants.

Table 3.1. Unregistered emigrants, reason for departure, 2001-07

2001-02

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Job contract

60.8

82.1

79.8

81.8

63.2

69.3

Studies

3.9

4.3

4

4.3

6.6

12.6

Family circumstances

17.2

11.1

4.6

8.9

13.8

7.9

Other

18.1

2.6

11.6

4.9

16.4

10.2

Total

100

100

100

100

100

100

Total (thousands)

23.2

11.7

17.3

32.5

15.2

12.7

Source: Statistics Lithuania.

Despite changed circumstances and contrary to broadly held expectations in Lithuania, a significant part of emigration remained unregistered. However, this was less related to immigration restrictions at the destination (as in the previous decade) than to other factors, such as a demand for cheap labour in the shadow economy, unrealistic expectations when emigrating (moving abroad for immediate economic benefit and staying on after failing to “fulfil the plan”), an attempt to retain social benefits or health insurance in Lithuania, etc. (Maslauskaite and Stankuniene, 2007).

Emigration declined after 2005, while return migration, albeit almost symbolic, rose. The economic crisis and migration (2009-12)

 
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