Are Lithuanian residents happy in their own country?
Based on the most recent research, Lithuanian people are the happiest people in the Baltic States. We have also taken an interest in other research that analyses the feeling of happiness in individual areas: where we are superior to other Europeans and where we lag behind. But, most importantly, do we appreciate what we have?
Edita Giedraitė, Economist at the Macroprudencial Policy Division
Unemployment and education
The unemployment rate of the population with higher education is among the lowest in Europe (about 3%). In this respect, we are comparable to such countries as The Netherlands or the United Kingdom. Within the group of population with lower education, the situation is worse. It should be taken into account that this share is the smallest in Europe.
According to Eurostat data for the fourth quarter of 2017, about 15% of the population with education lower than secondary fail to find a job, while among those with secondary education this share is 9%. Such a gap among residents with a different education, unfortunately, is one of the widest in Europe. While the situation has been improving, it is particularly important to properly integrate residents with lower education into the labour market.
Working conditions and reachability
About 92% of our population never have to work at night. In this respect, Lithuania is the leader in Europe. It is partly due to the structure of the domestic economy: there are fewer factories in Lithuania that operate uninterruptedly and employ huge numbers of people. It is hard to find positive aspects of night shifts: various researches show that night shift throws human body into chaos, increases the risk of heart or nervous system diseases, diabetes. Night shifts are most common for residents in Slovakia, Slovenia and Iceland. However, Lithuanians work 38.5 hours per week on average, i.e. one hour longer than the European Union (EU) average.
It takes about 29 minutes on average for our residents to reach their work – approximately 3 minutes less than the European average. Only residents in Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia and Denmark reach their work place faster. Moreover, in Vilnius, it takes 28 minutes on average to reach one’s work place, while in London and Dublin – 48 and 40 minutes respectively.
Living environment and housing
Did you know that Vilnius is considered the cleanest capital in Europe and is the first by the Green City index. In addition, in terms of the quality of life, Vilnius is rated along with Brussels, Bratislava and Lisbon. A relatively small share of Lithuanians (13.4%) complains about noise made by neighbours or coming from the street. The population of Malta (26.2%), Germany (25.1%) and The Netherlands (24.9%) is the unhappiest in this respect.
On the other hand, about a fifth of the Lithuanian population face housing infrastructure related issues: they live without an indoor flushing toilet, a bath or a shower, the roof is leaky, the housing is dark or there’s too little light in it. By the way, a similar situation is observed in Belgium, the United Kingdom and The Netherlands.
In Latvia and Romania, more than half of families with at least three adults live in an overcrowded household (e.g. the family lives in one room). In Lithuania, this indicator is below 30%; however, in nearly half of European countries this share is below 5%. The situation of people who live alone or share housing gives more optimism; for them, this issue is not that acute.
Safety and health
In our country, the share of prisoners and murders per one thousand residents is the largest in Europe, yet just 3.4% of Lithuanians report crimes, cases of violence and vandalism in their district. This is an extraordinarily small share compared to other European countries. For example, in Latvia and Estonia it is three times larger. This low indicator does not mean though that Lithuania is one of the safest countries in Europe: perhaps, we do notice violence, but we do not report it? Higher consciousness and activity of the society might have a positive effect on the criminological situation. Take, for example, Bulgaria, Serbia, the United Kingdom or The Netherlands: about one-fifth of their population notice and report domestic abuse.
An important indicator of the quality of life is public health. In Lithuania, as well as in the whole of Europe, the health accessibility level is high: about 96% of the population receive necessary medical help. Just 3% of Lithuania’s population complain about expensive health services and long waiting lists; the share of those dissatisfied has shrunk by nearly -half over the decade.
Material welfare and finances
It has to be admitted that the standard of living in Lithuania is rather low. Minimum wage after tax, albeit may not be comparable to many other European countries, is higher than, e.g. in Latvia or Poland. More than half of the Lithuanians claim they would not be able to face unexpected financial expenses, while every fifth resident in Lithuania falls within the poverty risk group. According to the latest survey of households conducted by the Bank of Lithuania, one-third of households see their financial situation as poor, two-thirds – as medium or good. However, in terms of purchasing power, while we cannot be comparable to Western European countries, we do go hand in hand with Estonia and are superior to the neighbouring Latvia, Poland and many Eastern European countries. While rising inflation limits growth in household consumption, this year average wage growth is projected to outpace price growth and thus the trend of growth in the purchasing power is likely to persist.
Although surveys show that, by indicators suggestive of the quality of life, our country is no worse than many other European countries, paradoxically, emigration from Lithuania is high. According to the proverb, ‘a prophet is not recognised in his own land’, yet nobody will solve the country’s issues for us. By the way, research shows that ‘the wish to live better than your neighbour’ sometimes leads people to the ‘paradox of happiness’ – additional income makes one feel happy only temporarily. Income growth has a significant effect on the feeling of happiness when it helps haul oneself out of poverty, yet later appetite starts increasing: one gets accustomed to better living conditions and the effect of happiness wanes or vanishes altogether.
The latest Eurobarometer survey conducted in the autumn of 2017 shows that 83% of EU citizens are satisfied with their living, while in Lithuania this share accounts is 70%. In Poland, such people account for 86%, in Estonia – 81%, while in Latvia their share is 69%.