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Population shrinkage in nothing new in the already sparsely populated Baltics: during periods of Nazi and Soviet occupations, the region suffered from tremendous loss of residents.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and opening of the borders to the West, the Baltics experienced significant emigration.
Estonia has focused on branding itself the capital of digital innovation, for example boasting it is the “new digital nation” because of its offer of e-Residency, as one means to encourage migration or return migration.
Under a 2015 EU plan to allocate asylum seekers more equitably across the bloc, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were obliged to accept 1,679 refugees in total.
In the Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—high emigration rates and shrinking, aging populations are leading to an impending demographic crisis.
The region is one of the most rapidly depopulating in the world, and according to United Nations estimates, by 2050 Latvia’s population could shrink by 22 percent, while those in Lithuania and Estonia could decline by 17 percent and 13 percent, respectively.
The program places emphasis on Estonian language instruction abroad; preserving culture and a sense of belonging to the Estonian nation; archival work for the preservation of Estonian history; and the return of expatriate Estonians.
Returning Estonians can qualify for a support payment from the Integration and Migration Foundation’s Our People program, while returning researchers can receive grants.
Another major concern driving emigration is the inability of rising wages to keep up with inflation, as well as the perceived lack of adequate health care and social security—two principal concerns for individuals living in the Baltic states, according to the 2018 Eurobarometer survey.