The critical environmental and sustainability issues of Lithuania:
In Lithuania, the share of people living below the international poverty threshold accounts for about 1%, but about one-fifth of the Lithuanian population is at risk of poverty (where at-risk-of-poverty threshold is 60% of median equalised disposable income). In 2016, the share of the population subject to poverty risk or social exclusion was 30.1%, which was 6.6 percentage points more than the European Union average. These at-risk-of-poverty trends can be explained by the recovery of some economic sectors and the more rapid income growth in them, the social benefits that have not been increased for a long time and that have been losing their purchasing power, and the low spending on social security in comparison with other countries. Compared to 2010, the share of the government sector spending on the essential social security services dropped from 33.4% to 31.7%, while the share for social security had accounted for 14.8% of the country’s GDP in 2014 and 15.6% in 2015, i.e. almost twice less than the EU average (28.7% in 2014).
Although the availability of pre-school and pre-primary education is improving in Lithuania, a fairly large difference yet remains between urban and rural areas: the share of children between 4 and 6 years of age who attended educational establishments in 2016 accounted for 91.4% (of which 48.4% in rural areas) (86.5% in 2012, of which 38.3% in rural areas). This situation was influenced by the establishment of new groups of pre-school and pre-primary education and the introduction of compulsory pre-primary education for all 6-year-old children from September 2016. In 2016–2017, the results of three international surveys of student achievements and adult skills, Lithuania being one of the participants, were published. The PISA results show that the achievements of Lithuania’s 15-year-olds are below the EU average. As seen from the financial literacy test, the achievements of the Lithuanian students were particularly low and Lithuania took the 11th and 12th places among the 15 participating countries.
In 2015, drinking water supplied by a centralised system in Lithuania was used by only 80% of the population, and wastewater of 72% of the population was collected in centralised sewer systems. According to the information of the Environmental Project Management Agency under the Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Lithuania, based on the programmes for the financial periods 2004–2006 and 2007–2013, by April 2015 the number of users of the wastewater collection networks had increase by 171,000 residents and that of users of the drinking water supply networks by 123,000 residents (the share of the population using centralised wastewater collection networks and drinking water supply networks had increased by 5.7% and 4% respectively). One more goal in the water management sector is to achieve 100% compliance of publicly supplied drinking water with the safety and quality requirements.
In view of the growing economy and increasing earned income, income inequality shows an upward trend. Considering the decreasing unemployment and the rising level of job vacancies, wages in recent years have been growing by about 5% annually. Income inequality that is closely related to financial poverty has increased significantly in Lithuania: in 2016 the income of 20% of the wealthiest population was 7.1 times higher than that of 20% of the poorest population. This indicator is one of the highest in the European Union.
Income inequality is also significant between rural and urban areas. The average income of rural households only accounts for about one-third of income in urban households. Income inequality causes social tensions, projects social crises and boosts emigration. Social policy, educational and health care measures are not sufficient for reducing this inequality, and Lithuania’s business and economic sector must get more involved in the process.
The ten-year trend of sexually transmitted disease morbidity has shown a downward dynamic in Lithuania, but syphilis morbidity was 1.6 times higher than the EU average in 2011. During 2010–2014, chlamydiosis morbidity went up by a third of the rate. If untreated, this disease can become the cause of infertility. Most persons infected with sexually transmitted diseases are young people between 20 and 34 years of age. The number of persons infected with AIDS through sexual relations is on the rise every year, while the number of those infected through the use of injectable narcotic drugs is decreasing.