Most Lithuanian women work in spite of insufficient childcare provision and relatively inflexible working hours. As a result, other relatives are picking up childcare responsibilities. Setting up more child care facilities is seen as key in facilitating the reconciliation of work and family life. The risk of child poverty remains comparatively high and the fertility rate – at 1.8 children per woman in 2011 has increased over the last few years. Due to the economic crisis the maternity and parental leave benefits, until now very generous, have been considerably reduced.
Women play an active role in the Lithuanian labour market. At 60.5%, the female employment level is above the EU average (58.5%) in 2011. Women with children under six years of age are even more likely to work: 69.7% were employed in 2011, compared to an EU average of 58.9%. However, significant differences exist between the wages paid to men and women. At 14.6%, the Lithuanian gender pay gap is narrower than the EU average of 16.4%.
According to an EU 2007 survey, 76% of Lithuanian employees say they face difficulties in reconciling work and care for children. The major reason for this is the insufficient provision of childcare services. Lithuania is well below Barcelona targets with 13% of children under three years of age and 67% of children between three and compulsory school age covered by childcare services.
The work-life balance problem is compounded by the lack of opportunities to use flexible forms of employment. The income from part-time work is usually not enough to secure a decent living – only 10.5% of women and 6.9% of men work part-time, compared to EU respective averages of 32.1% and 9%. The lack of flexible work opportunities hinders many women with children from reintegration in the labour market after prolonged breaks.
The high employment rate of mothers is not sufficient to protect all children against the risk of poverty. In 2011, the at-risk-of-poverty rate in Lithuania was at 24.3. The poverty risk is higher for children in single parent and large families. According to the Lithuanian national data, as many as 44% and 41% of these families (respectively) are at risk of poverty.
The high level of child poverty is despite the relatively high spending on family benefits. At 2.8% of GDP in 2009, public expenditure on family benefits was well above the EU average of 2.3%. Presented with a list of policy measures that could improve life for families, about 90% of Lithuanian respondents to a Eurobarometer thought that giving greater tax advantages for families with children should be given a high priority for policy action.
To improve the situation for families and children, the support for families has been considerably improved over the past decade. Means-tested support is available to help low-income families with their heating and utility bills. There are also a number of universal benefits including:
Lithuania was strongly affected by the recent economic crisis, leading the Lithuanian government to introduce a new law: “The temporary Law of Recount and payment of Social benefits” in July 2010, which decreased family benefits by 10%.
Up until July 2010, mothers were entitled to maternity benefits which totalled the entire amount of her salary in the child's first year and 85% of her salary in the second year, as long as the monthly maternity benefit did not exceed a ceiling of 4,680 Litas (€ 1,355).
Since July 2011, the amount of the benefits has depended on the length of the leave the parents choose to take to look after their child at home. Parents who decide to raise a child at home during two years receive 70% of their salary the first year and then 40% the second year. Those who choose to take only one year of leave receive a monthly payment of 100% of their salary. In addition, the child benefit is now means tested. It is only paid to parents who do not receive maternity or paternity benefit. The maximum amount paid during the first year of leave was reduced to 4,212 Litas (€1,219) for the first year and to 3,510 Litas (€1,016) for the second year.
The information in the country profile was last updated in November 2012.