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Social Capital for Smart and Sustainable Development in Lithuania

06.06.2019    Giedrė Kvieskienė, Vytautas Kvieska

  1. 1 Introduction
  2. 2 Welfare system: from transition to an inclusive economy
  3. 3 The Social Capital and Social Clustering
  4. 4 Social Services and Social Work System in Lithuania
  5. 5 Lithuania from the perspective of demographic and job quality challenge
  6. 6 Conclusions
  7. 7 Literature
  8. Authors

1 Introduction

Lithuania has unique characteristics and smart human resources, which should be used to foster competitiveness. Lithuania’s economy has grown faster than most other OECD economies over the past 10 years, unemployment continues to fall and public finances have become stable after a long period of deficits and a rising debt. [1] Lithuania’s gross domestic product is €34.95 billion a year. That makes it the largest economy of the three Baltic states, but just one-tenth of the size of Poland’s economy. Small it may be, but it has been growing fast: Lithuania’s economy has almost doubled in size since 2000 [2]

Smart specialization has become a key element of the Lithuania Strategy 2030 [3] which lays down guidelines for the next decade in the development of regional innovation systems, consolidates a "smart-growth principles", "green growth", "inclusion increase” and Cohesion Policy. Smart specialization is a strategic approach to priorities in education and culture, sustainable social services based on tradition and religion as a key for sustainable growth and development in the society.

In this article, you will find information about Lithuanian Social Capital for Smart and Sustainable Socioeducation Networking for Sustainable Society. Social industries, organizations and companies, such as the ones working in universal design, social clustering, social advertising, secondary use of things, software or the gamification are normally seen as particularly innovative (Lazzeretti, L., 2012, Kvieskienė, G., Kvieska V., 2012). Cities and communities are important for social partnerships and social capital: social and creative industries tend to be urban industries, which take advantage of shared knowledge and of a density of specialized customers, suppliers, and workers to create new products (Asheim, B. T., Ebersberger, B., & Herstad, S., 2012). Businesses benefit both from the diversity of urban environments, which may provide a range of stimulation and from specialization, allowed by urban environments. Furthermore, the recent research states that externalities are related to the city size: larger cities provide greater externalities, making firms in large cities more innovative, more inclusive and friendlier for communities (Duranton and Puga, 2003; Stolarick and Florida, 2006, Targamadze 2016). The article argues that a greater use of Social Economics (SE) and Social Partnership (SP), including “Public-Private Partnership” (PPP) and “Social Clustering” (SC) paves an innovative way for empowerment all social groups and stakeholders in communities, in private, public and civic sectors in terms of positive socialization and social welfare. In short the use of Smart education (SE), Social Communication and Mediation (SCM) strategies and the Public Private Partnership funded education model to complement (but not replace) other sources of funding education could help resolve some of budgetary capital constraints that have been observed and tangibly hampered educational productivity and performance. We have tried to explain the synergy between Smart Education and Social Innovations and analyze impacts of Social Partnership and Social Clustering on families and community welfare.

Since 1990, the population of Lithuania has shrunk by 23 percent, largely due to migration, with nearly 72 percent of emigrants aged between fifteen and forty-four. This has dramatically changed the county’s demographic structure and affected the socio-economical sector in multiple ways. Although Lithuania’s economical growth has been impressive, social inequality is still very high, and the risk of poverty is one of the highest among European countries, and life expectancy is comparatively low and strongly dependent on socio-economic background, and the sense of confidence and being a member of the community. Low salaries and poor job satisfaction adversely affect the well-being and contribute to the high emigration level. Proper coordination of the labour market and well balanced social and health policies can all contribute to improvement of both well-being and economic growth. Lithuania officially claims its priorities include support for social and small business initiatives to create more and better job opportunities, especially for low-skilled employees, and socially protected jobs for disabled people. Better access to state support, social inclusion and an adequate income level combined with support to job seekers and training programs would further facilitate integration of out-of-work individuals into the national labor market. Promotion of equity and effectiveness and sustainability of health policies are also instrumental to inclusiveness.

A wide-scale labor market, unemployment benefits and the pension reform grounded the New Social Model implemented in 2017 which is expected to reinvigorate inclusive growth and underpin the sustainability of public finances in Lithuania [4] In 2017, despite complex and frequently adverse conditions, improvements were noted in several dimensions of sustainability and solid fundamentals were laid down for future improvements in several other sectors. Lithuania’s non-governmental organizations (NGO) have frequently expressed their intentions to more actively participate in public policies and government decision-making processes. For the first time, umbrella organizations received dedicated government funding and played an important role in advocating for change. In 2013, the European Council decided to start implementation of the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) to address the issue of young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs). Under this initiative 20 EU member states, where the unemployment rate among 15–24 year old people exceeded 25 % in 2012, received EUR 6.4 billion for implementation of additional measures to reduce unemployment of young people by the year 2018. Lithuania was among the countries and received over EUR 69 million from YEI funds. Lithuania included the YEI into the Operational Programme for the European Union Funds’ Investments in 2014–2020, where its implementation was assigned a specific objective to reduce the number of young people aged 15 to 29 not in employment, education or training set in Priority 7 Promoting Quality Employment and Participation in the Labour Market. The objective comprises two YEI-supported projects aimed to support 35,000 young people aged 15–29 who are not in employment, education or training until 2018 [5]

The subject of this article is Lithuania’s Social Capital for the smart and sustainable development.

The goal of the paper is to analyze how Lithuania’s social policy encourages socio-educational innovation and social capital development through smart socio-education and community-oriented tasks.

Aspirations for the common objective, consensus on the most important priorities of the public interest and successful social partnership between public, private and civic (NGO) sectors and scientific organizations mean that the country is committed to further development of the introduced democracy model. Education services and virtual learning modules based on studies into socio-economics, social communication and civic participation have been developed by researchers of Lithuania University of Education and Vytautas Magnus University in cooperation with their social partners since 2009.

KEYWORDS: Clustering, Social Innovation, Sustainable Development; Smart Education; Positive Socialization, Private–Public Partnership; Trust, Sustainable Development; Entrepreneurship;

2 Welfare system: from transition to an inclusive economy

Lacking not only the structural units necessary for transformation, but the statehood itself, Lithuania began completely new in 1990. Occupied and annexed by the Soviet Union in the 1940s, Lithuania remained under soviet rule for almost 50 years. The soviet rule dramatically reshaped the country in terms of its resources, economy and, above all, the people. Lithuanians often use the term rebirth to describe their return to statehood, which represented the starting point of transformation and set the goal of becoming a free and independent state within the community of European democracies. With the accession to the European Union on May 1, 2004 and the NATO in March 2004, Lithuania finally achieved the goals and aspirations it set in 1990. [6] Sustainable development is an important community mobilization tool that develops positive leadership and community capacity, in which it is necessary to validate the local government and other laws (Kvieskiene G., Bardauskiene D., 2014). We define smart positive socialization as a synergy of social innovation and social industries, which is based on a 3D model of education (multifunctional, multicriterian, multifactorial) in enabling sustainable social communication, smart education, social industries and social capital (PPP: social partnership) (Celesiene E., Kvieskiene G., 2014).

Table 1. Key Indicators [7]
Population (M) 2.9 HDI0.848 GDP p.c., PPP ($)29966
Pop. growth (% p.a.) -1.1 HDI rank of 18837 Gini Index 37.7
Life expectancy (years) 75.1
Urban population (%) 66.5
UN Education Index 0.904
Gender inequality0.121
Poverty (%)2.7
Aid per Capita ($)

Lithuania’s welfare system is already more than frugal. According to the Ministry of Social Security and Labour, only 4 per cent of Lithuania’s people receive welfare benefits whereas 9 per cent are unemployed and more than one-fourth live below the at-risk-of-poverty threshold. Lithuania ranks 36th in the overall Prosperity Index rankings. Since the Prosperity Index was introduced in 2007, Lithuania has moved up the ranking table by 11 positions. In the Prosperity Pillar ranking, Lithuania performs best on the Natural Environment and Education pillar and scores lowest on the Social Capital pillar. The biggest positive change over the last year was observed in Social Capital, an increase by 38 positions, while the ranking in Business Environment dropped by 6 positions [8] In Lithuania, the Social Security Rate is a tax related with labor income charged to both companies and employees. Revenues from the Social Security Rate are an important source of income for the government of Lithuania because they help to pay for many social programs including welfare, health care and many other benefits [9] Social Security Rate – actual data, historical chart and calendar of releases – was last updated on May of 2019 not all time shows real welfare situation in the Country.

Table 2. Social Security Rate
Actual Previous Highest Lowest Dates Unit Frequency
41.98 41.98 41.98 33.90 2004 - 2018 percent Yearly

Social Security Rate
Fig. 1 Social Security Rate

The level of poverty and social exclusion in Lithuania is among the highest in the EU. Statistical data shows that poverty and social exclusion rates in Lithuania are among the highest in the EU (30.1 % in 2016, compared to 23.4 % EU average). Lithuania’s Law on Social Enterprises adopted in 2004 and amended in 2011 defines a social enterprise as “any sort of enterprise that is set up to create employment for people that are severely disadvantaged in the labour market”. The Law distinguishes two types of social enterprises: a social enterprise and a social enterprise of the disabled. Both types of social enterprises have to meet strict requirements in order to qualify for the social entreprise status (e.g. employment for people that are severely disadvantaged in the labor market; the list of non-supported activities, etc.) [10]

While severe material deprivation and at-risk-of-poverty rates have remained stable, the proportion of people living in low work intensity households has increased. Older people, single parent households (mainly headed by women), the disabled and the unemployed remain particularly affected by poverty or social exclusion. In all four categories, Lithuania has one of the highest levels of risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU. [11] Pursuant to the provisions of the Lithuanian Progress Strategy „Lithuania 2030“, it is necessary to develop creativity of the society and of all its members and to put particular emphasis on ideas that could help Lithuania become a modern, dynamic and open state. The Strategy is being developed on the basis of ideas of solidarity with different social groups (ethnic, etc.) as well as tolerance, compassion, social responsibility and responsible consumption. The Strategy sets an objective to increase public environmental awareness, to promote sustainable consumption and a responsible approach to economic development.

Although the welfare system was partly reformed in 2011 to slightly improve the level of social inclusion, its efficiency is still low and the motivation of citizens to seek jobs is still insufficient. The problem of high unemployment among the youth was partly addressed by the reform, but the issues of high bureaucracy, insufficient transparency and the lack of expected efficiency still have to be dealt with. The problems of youth unemployment, social integration of risk groups, alternative energy, quality food, healthcare and aging population can be solved only by means of innovative solutions. One-third of Lithuanian residents are now facing the risk of poverty and long-term exclusion.

The rate of payable unemployment benefits depends on one’s employment history. However, unemployment and a low income often overlap. Those on unemployment benefits, especially if they are considered to be ’low-skilled’, can be called to perform public works by local employment offices. Those on income support, if fit to work, are now subject to a requirement to perform socially-useful work that benefits the local community. [12] With an underdeveloped unemployment insurance system, social assistance is a key component of the social protection system in Lithuania. After the global financial crisis of 2009, the number of recipients of social assistance increased significantly to 5 % of the population in 2014 following the peak of 6.7 % in 2012. At the same time, the number of unemployment benefit recipients remained broadly constant, at about 3.5 per cent, and half of the poor are still behind the margins of social assistance. Since 2016, the at-risk-of-poverty rate has significantly increased among old-age pensioners. While the average pay rate has considerably increased, pensions have grown at a much slower pace. As a result, the risk of poverty among old-age pensioners has increased by 6 percentage points. It should also be noted that the average rate of the old-age pension (255 Eur) failed to reach the poverty threshold of 307 Eur set in 2016. Poverty of single parent families and large families also increased significantly. [13]

3 The Social Capital and Social Clustering

So far, Lithuania has made some progress in the area of combating poverty, social exclusion and income inequality. However, certain challenges still remain to be dealt with. In 2016, 30 % of the Lithuanian population were exposed to the risk of poverty or social exclusion. Therefore, the state started important reforms to increase the rate of retirement pensions, promote employment opportunities, create favorable financial conditions for families and increase the state-subsidized income. [14]

Lithuania’s educational system comprises the following stages: 1) early childhood education and care (preprimary and preprimary class-based education); 2) compulsory education for children aged seven through 16 (including primary education, lower-secondary general education, vocational lower-secondary education); 3) upper-secondary and post-secondary education (for persons aged 17 to 19); and 4) higher education provided by universities (undergraduate, graduate and PhD studies) and colleges (undergraduate studies). Lithuania’s high level of tertiary attainment has been gradually increasing further in recent years (53.3 % in 2014). Its rate of early school leaving is also below the EU average, at just 5.9 % in 2014. However, enrollment rates in vocational-education and training programs are low. [15] According to an OECD survey of education released in September 2016, only 15 % of all students are expected to graduate from vocational training programs compared to an OECD average of 46 % and EU average of 50 %. Early childhood education attendance is also low, with only 78.3 % of Lithuanian children aged four to six attending preprimary education programs, compared to the EU-27 average of 92.3 %.

Families with many children, people living in rural areas, the youth and disabled people, unemployed people and elderly people are the demographic groups with the highest poverty risk. [16] A sustainable social network, able to generate more social capital, can only be created throw strengthening complex support for families, education institutions, NGOs, schools [17].

According to the World Giving Index 2016 by Charity Aid Foundation (CAF) Lithuania ranked 124th in the world down from 119th place in 2014. Comparable neighboring countries ranked somewhat higher – Poland – 109th, Latvia – 113th, Estonia – 118th. According to this survey, only 11 % of Lithuania’s population devoted their time to volunteer activities. [18] Just a little over half (55 %) of 15-year-old adolescents trust their classmates.

Like many other Eastern Europe countries, Lithuania has undergone a political and societal transition since 1990. These changes have affected family life through reduced birth rates, higher divorce rates, changes in family status and structure, and so on [19]. Education in Lithuania is free and compulsory at the primary and basic educational level (from 6 or 7 years of age up to 16 years of age), as stated in the National Law on Education. Adolescents can choose an upper secondary education at either a high school or a vocational school. Also, they are free not to choose any further education at all. Boys and girls study together at all levels. [20] The Social Report 2014–2015 states that the successful implementation of the family policy is one of the strategic goals of the Lithuanian government (Ministry of Social Security and labour, 2015). The European Parliament encourages EU member states to guarantee each citizen the fundamental right to access sufficient resources to get social support and enjoy social services so that each person and family would keep their dignity and take equal part in distribution of social services. Accessibility and accountability of social services are highlighted. (Guogis, 2015). The Ministry of Social Security and Labour plays a vital role in the implementation process by funding various projects in the area of family welfare. It coordinates funding, makes decisions and encourages active participation of families in ongoing projects. Over the 2014–2015 period, the ministry carried out two main projects in the field of the family policy. First, it made efforts to strengthen families and ensure their wholesome functioning. Second, it took part, although indirectly, in preparation and acquisition of methodical information. One of its main strategic aims was to combat domestic violence. One of the key activities in the field was the delivery of professional support to victims of domestic violence stipulated in the the National Programme for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Provision of Assistance to Victims 2014–2020, approved by Order No. A1-462 of the Minister of Social Security and Labour of the Republic of Lithuania on 24 September 2014. Other activities included information campaigns, support for nongovernmental organizations, data collection, training for specialists, supervision, etc. Various national events for families were also organized. [21] Lithuanian’s system of training and professional development of social worker’s improvement started in 1995. Training centers and institutes of social work have been organizing qualification courses for social workers since 1997. The Ministry of Social Security and Labor launched a program of professional development of social workers in 2001. The main objective of the program is to allow social workers possibilities to model situations in terms of demands, establishment, planning, organizing and evaluation of changes and to develop abilities to search for and effectively apply relevant information. In 2002, the new law on civil services came into force to lay down legal regulation and funding of training and professional development of civil servants and stipulate common principles of social work in view of the contemporary training demands. Professional competences developed by social workers, fill in the gaps observed in professional skills that are characteristic to social pedagogy, such as the absence of team work in socio-educational help indicated by V. Indrašienė, G. Kvieskienė, O. Merfeldaitė [2007]). The analysis states that social work integrates those educational elements which contribute to client’s empowerment and, along with psychological and social work elements, create effective methods of integrated support. At the onset of the third decade of Independence, we can already observe a number of indicators that evidence solid entrenchment of social work in the country, including acknowledgement of social work as a professional practice. The latter has been developing consistently creating and improving its instruments in the historical and cultural context. The major feature of the Lithuanian sociocultural context is obviously post-communism. In the early stage of the welfare state development, the post-communist mentality manifested in passive labor policies, such as the provision of social services at home, usually for client groups inherited from the communist times, monetary contribution based social support and a moderate social services package. For a long time, the quality of social care was measured only by technical parameters (square meters per person, the number of bed linen sets per year and so on). Personal satisfaction with an emphasis on the quality of life was neglected (Social Report 2007–2008, 2008).

Education of social workers in Lithuania was intensively studied for an entire decade since the first re-training program at Vytautas Magnus University was introduced. The introduction and further development of the new training program caused a lot of discussions. The need to deal with the new challenges forced Lithuanian education institutions to join into networks and initiate international projects, such as the Tempus project Social Educators / Social Workers Interdisciplinary Education and Training 1996–1999, Leonardo da Vinci program The Standard of Social Work Training for Colleges 1998–2000 or Phare program Social Work Training program in Utena Medical School 1996–1998, that allowed an opportunity to learn experiences of Western countries. The Ministry of Social Security and Labour invited foreign experts to help investigate the field of social work in Lithuania (Helsinki and Lapland Universities funded project Training of Social Workers in Lithuania, 1996–1998). A great deal of foreign scientists, particularly from the United States, worked in Vytautas Magnus University during the first decade of the training program. Apart from regular studies, the Social Work Institute organized a summer school for students, lecturers and social work practitioners. Exchange of students, teachers and professionals under Socrates / Erasmus program as well as scientific-methodical literature also contributed to the professionalization of the field. Although the network of higher education institutions was complemented by licensing and training institutions, there is still a great deal of differences among schools that are teaching social work. Higher schools developed and introduced a variety of courses within the framework of social work training programs (e.g., special education, management, law) (Pivorienė, 2003; Leliūgienė et al., 2006). Initially, the courses were taught mostly by non-professional lecturers specializing in social sciences other than social work and student research projects were done in social fields different from social work. Thus, the social worker’s profession was greatly affected by sociology, education, medicine, psychology and other social sciences. On the other hand, social work has been developing both, as a scientific subject and professional practice. Analysis of various sources in the field, including official documents, academic papers, research papers and scientific literature, reveals the presence of contradictory assessments of the pace, scale, quality and authenticity of the evolution of social work in Lithuania. Official evaluations reflected in legislative instruments and primarily based on quantitative factors measured “before” and “after” declare rapid development of social work as a professional practice. Social work as a discipline entered the qualitative development phase when the net of social work schools built up and social work was included in the classification of major professions. Meanwhile, scientific research comes up with a much smaller and slower progress in the field.

Key indicators of well-being compared to OECD countries
Fig. 2 Key indicators of well-being compared to OECD countries

The level of social assistance benefits constitutes another challenge: it has currently become insufficient to alleviate poverty at less than half the poverty line (measured at 60 % of the median income). The situation implies an obvious need for improvement in allocating support for out-of-work individuals. A reform of the social assistance system, therefore, appears complementary to the reform of the social model currently being debated in Lithuania. In particular, extending the coverage of the unemployment benefit system, as planned, would provide room for better support to the most vulnerable. The recent debates come up with directions for additional reforms that could complement the implementation of the flexicurity model in Lithuania. [22] A great deal of attention is paid to the timely provision of quality services. Since 2017 the funding for social work with at-risk families has increased to reduce the number of at-risk families per social worker from 17 to 10. The scope of social work with parents of a child in care has been extended to provide conditions for the child’s return to the family and increase the number of social workers working with families in local municipalities. Integrated assistance at home (social care and nursing) is granted in all municipalities. Integrated services for parents with children in a crisis have also been improved to grant assistance to parents in the development of their social and positive parenting skills and giving priority to prevention of early family crises. [23] Social clustering and empowered regional policies also help solve social problems in Lithuania. Unfortunately, practical steps required for practical implementation of social partnership and social clustering in Lithuania take much time. Neither adoption of legal acts nor modification of the adopted conception is enough for this. For example, the Law on Concessions of the Republic of Lithuania No. I-1510 adopted on September 10, 1996 is being applied very reluctantly. The laws on and the procedure of complex family assistance and child welfare commissions or councils fail to grant proper intersectional synergy either. The state has developed clear procedures for educational assistance, social support and health care to be provided in a complex way to pre-school children and their parents (custodians) [24] and adopted many normative documents regulating the use of resources of European funds and national resources to this end. However, changes in real life are not so impressive since a successful social clustering takes an opportunity of an individual to develop their own competences by strengthening the role of their organizations.

Social Clustering throw Smart Socialization
Fig. 3 Social Clustering throw Smart Socialization

Positive socialization can be described by attempts to negotiate life tasks and set life goals (Weiner, Craighead) by defining an aspect of socialization and, at the same time, promoting democratic values, and as experiences of communication of values helping to establish democratic political institutions (Smidt, Kellstedt, Guth). Giedrė Kvieskienė (2005) defines positive socialization as a policy of positive activities (a scenario of positive socialization) based on which particular persons or their groups adjust behaviour of subjects of socialization in order to establish positive components of culture and to prevent consequences of elements of this culture that are unacceptable to the society. Interactive strategies of gamification rapidly gaining popularity in the world should be used when scenarios of positive socialization are applied.

Vytautas Magnus University after interconnection Lithuanian University of Educational Science became a the major teacher training institution in Lithuania. Instead of having an extensive program for future global education of teachers, the University integrates specific topics into the curricula of other programs, e.g. a Bachelor’s degree program Social Pedagogics educating a personality able to find creative ways to respond to current challenges or find the purpose of life under contradictory conditions of the contemporary life. The program integrates such subjects as protection of children rights, civil society and social inclusion, social communication, equal opportunities in education and personal social integration which serve as the basis for integration of Global Education into teacher training programs. Other Lithuanian higher education institutions include no courses of the global education program for educators into their syllabuses. [25]

4 Social Services and Social Work System in Lithuania

The nature of social work and social education is multifunctional. Thus, social worker’s professional practice in health care institutions is manifold to involve assessment of patient’s social situation and needs, evaluation and delivery of social services and rendering advice to the patient and their relatives (advice on social security). The latest studies reveal the importance of social work in health care institutions, the most important areas of social work and problems most frequently faced by social workers in health care organizations. Because of the strong interconnection between health and social problems, social workers associate the importance of social work in health care organizations mainly with the provision of social services aimed at strengthening of individual’s capacity of social functioning and granting appropriate social conditions. The key areas of social work include dealing with benefit issues, disability, employment and special needs, informing about social service agencies and organizations, compensation procedures; permanent care and nursing procedures, custody, adaptation of living environment, helping with applications for custody, care or home services, pension matters, mediation between the patient and health care institutions, liaison with relatives and social organizations, involvement of and social services for family members, organization of employment and self-assistance groups, cooperation with other agencies and professional development.

Lithuanian Social Work association started in 1993. Since then, Lithuania has introduced the national Classification of Professions, adopted necessary legal acts and developed a network of social work institutions, developed a network of training institutions and introduced a clear training system for social workers, launched a system of Professional support, etc. In terms of the narrow meaning, comprising only the aforementioned elements, social work has already been fully introduced in Lithuania, as A. Bagdonas (2001) states, and there is nothing that can be added to this concern. This periodization of social work in Lithuania suggested by A. Bagdonas (2001) is supported by a vast number of Lithuanian scientists: V. Kavaliauskienė (2005), I. Leliūgienė, E. Giedraitienė, L. Rupšienė (2006), R. Naujaniene (2007), A. Vareikytė (2010), etc. However, foreign scientists who helped to develop social work in Lithuania during the first decade of independence (Ritchie, 2003; Tunney, Kulys, 2004 and others) approach the process from a different perspective based on their experience. To them, the question of social work as a profession, raised by A. Flexner in 1915, is still open and unlikely to be answered in the forthcoming decades. The question of professionalization of social work was extremely widely debated in the West from the 60s to the 80s (Greenwood, 1957; Bartlett, 1970, cited in Kavaliauskienė, 2005; Baird, 1972) and the issue is still relevant at the onset of the new millennium, e.g. L. C. Johnson (2001) emphasizes the absence of “clear and comprehensive definition” in the context of debates about social work as a profession (cited in Kavaliauskienė, 2005, p. 231). Lithuanian researchers associate emergence and development of the profession with the response to contemporary social needs (Lukoševičienė, 1996; Bagdonas, 2001; Jurkuvienė, 2003; Naujaniene, 2007; Večkienė, 2007, etc.). The evolution of social work in Lithuania is inseparable from social interventions, associated with the establishment of the welfare state.

According to Lithuanian Ministry of Social Security and Labour, in 2017 [26], Lithuania had 253.400 persons with disabilities to be supported by the state, 48 % of which were men and 52 % were women. In 2009, the official number of disabled people registered for the first time started to drop from 27 200 in 2008 to 22 800 in 2009, to 14 300 in 2012, 13 800 in 2013 and 2014, 12 900 in 2015 and 12 000 in 2016.

Table 3. Social services for the Disabled and Elderly people. According to Lithuanian’s statistical data of 2015
Recipients of social services (disabled and elderly people)*NumberPercentage (%)
Residential care 11159 17,5 %
Social services at home 17826 82,5 %
In day care centres 34500
In independence-living centres 436

The most frequent reasons of disability of the working age people included malignant tumours, diseases of the blood circulation system, connective tissue diseases and skeletomuscular system diseases. Mental and behavioral disorders, congenital developmental diseases, deformations, anomalies in chromosomes and diseases of the nervous system are the main causes of children disability. During the period of 2012–2016, the number of persons receiving compensations for attendance (assistance) leveled off (58 300 in 2012, 56 800 in 2013, 56 000 in 2014, 56 400 in 2015 and 56 300 in 2016). On the other hand, the number of the disabled granted compensations for nursing expenses increased during the same period. However, it should be noted that the number has currently become stable: 39 600 compensations in 2012, 39 200 in 2013, 39 900 in 2014, 39 900 in 2015 and 41 300 in 2016. In 2016, compensations for nursing expenses were paid to 942 children. 8 600 children received compensations for attendance (assistance) expenses. The main reasons for children disabilities and special education needs (SEN) include mental disorders, behavioral disorders, hereditary problems, deformations, anomalies of chromosomes and nervous system diseases.

In 2014, Lithuania adopted a seven-year action plan for transition from institutional care to family and community-based services for people with disabilities and children deprived of parental care. A comprehensive reform of the child protection system is currently being implemented within its framework. Initiated by the Ministry of Social Security and Labour under the slogan Family for children, community-based services for the disabled, the reform has a clear goal to dramatically reduce the number of children and people with disabilities receiving institutional care. After the first phase of the reform, which was about both, restructuring and increasing availability and accessibility of services, the reform entered a second phase in mid-2018 focusing on the development of regional infrastructure for family and community based services. [27]

On April 6–7, 2016 the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities discussed the initial report of Lithuania on the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Geneva, and on April 20, 2016 submitted its recommendations to Lithuania. [28] In 2016, financial support was granted to 935 disabled students studying in 37 higher schools including 861 disabled students in 26 public higher schools and 74 disabled students in 11 non-public higher schools. [29] The report by Lithuanian Education and Science states that the total number of students with SEN is increasing in higher education institutions (6, 6 % in universities and 19, 3 % colleges in 2006). A yet, the number of students with special needs declines with each stage of education (15,1 % in pre-schools and only 0,3 % at universities). The Law on Education states that “education of learners with special educational needs shall be granted by all schools providing compulsory and universally available education, other education providers and, in certain cases, by schools (classes) established for education of learners with special educational needs”. 37 Article 34 of the Law states that “at the request of parents or guardians of a learner with special needs, conditions shall be granted for the learner to study at any preschool education institution or general education school located in vicinity of their home or at any state, municipal or regional school for learners with special educational needs. The pedagogical psychological service shall recommend a school for the child”. [30] According to the Law on Education (2011), the purpose of education for learners with special educational needs (SEN) shall be to help them learn and train according to their abilities and attain an education level and acquire a qualification in view of their abilities and capacities. According to the Law, groups of learners with SEN shall be formed according to their special educational needs subdivided into minor, moderate, major and severe. In 2017, learners with SEN in general schools included 66 % minor SEN, 26 % moderate SEN, 6 % major SEN and 2 % severe SEN. Pupils with major and severe SEN may be educated in mainstream general schools (classes) until the age of 21. [31]

Day care services are regulated by the Ministry of Social Security and Labour, but their actual provision is organized at the municipal level (Interview 1). In 2017, there were 222 day care centers in Lithuania, including social care centers, community centers and family support services, which served around 17,300 persons (including children) with various disabilities as well as families at social risk. [32] Providers of day care services are either owned by municipal administrations or run by NGOs. While there is no national level statistics on their geographic distribution, in early 2018, for example, Vilnius municipality had 15-day care services providers for persons (including children) with disability, nine of which were owned by municipal administration and six were run by NGOs (Vilnius, 2018). Municipal providers are financed from municipal budgets, while NGOs can have various funding sources. Generally, municipal administrations purchase day care services from NGOs via public procurement procedures. Specific allocation to NGOs is regulated by a special government decree and depends on the type of services and their cost (Government of Lithuania, 2006). NGOs can also fund their activities from other sources, including private funds, donations, support from multilateral institutions etc. Day care services are provided by a team of specialists – including social workers, assistant social workers, psychologists and healthcare, education and employment specialists – at specialized facilities. Services at day care centers are provided 5 days per week and their duration ranges from 3 to 8 hours. The services include informing, consulting, mediating (e.g. with tax or legal authorities), dealing with basic life needs (e.g. preparation of food, hygiene) and transportation as well as more specific ones, such as social and life skills, psychological-psychotherapeutic support, development of working skills (knitting, handcrafts etc.), healthcare and other services depending on the needs. The cost of other day care services for individuals is regulated by a government decree and is set up at the municipal level. In general, it depends on the level of income of the service recipient and there are various exemptions for low-income individuals/families. [33]

Statistical data and research in Lithuania reveal that even though the general numbers of inclusive education are growing, the tendencies overall are not showing positive results in the end. Even though the number of children with SEN in educational institutions is growing, they have a pattern of falling out of the system in their young adulthood, thus resulting in decrease of socialization, communication problems and limited career options.

This tendency points out structural holistic problems in Lithuanian social care and educational systems, opening such flaws as insufficient resources, not adequate inclusion processes and the lack of a good practice model for social care professionals.

Research done by Lithuanian researches and by Lithuanian College of Democracy [34] reveals a considerable user need for more evidence-based recommendations about play for children with disabilities and with special education needs (SEN) and insufficiency of resources to deal with the issue. The first part of this case study discusses the current situation and statistical data relevant to the topic, the second part of the study discusses the improvements and upgrades done in recent years, and the last part of the study describes the rare positive examples of how play is included in daily schedules of children with disabilities and SEN.

Lithuania’s convergence process, mainly driven by growth in productivity, has been impressive: GDP per capita rose from one third to two thirds of the OECD average level between 1995 and 2015. This was accompanied by a rise in living standards reflecting better job opportunities, education and health (see figure No 3).

The convergence process in Lithuania
Fig. 4 The convergence process in Lithuania [35]

Educational attainment in Lithuania is one of the highest in the world with half of the population having a tertiary level of education. Life expectancy has increased by five years since 1995. However, despite significant endeavors to reduce it, inequality is high and the risk of poverty is one of the highest among European countries. Well-being indicators suggest that getting closer to the average OECD standards will require specific efforts in the areas of the labour market, housing and health and this is confirmed by a recent study pointing to health and the economic situation as the two main determinants of low levels of well-being (Degutis and Urbonavičius, 2013). Child poverty and individuals’ health status remain strongly dependent on socioeconomic background and there is a risk of a vicious circle linking socio-economic backgrounds, economic opportunities and life expectancy. High inequality and poverty could even undermine the sustainability of the convergence process as seen by the recent work of the OECD regarding the negative impact of inequality on growth (Causa et al, 2014; OECD, 2015d). The main mechanism through which inequality affects growth is by undermining education outcomes for children from poor socio-economic backgrounds, lowering social mobility and hampering skills development. Moreover, international experience suggests that the impact of inequality on growth stems from the gap between the bottom 40 % with the rest of society, not just the poorest 10 % (Cingano, 2014).

The benefits of economic growth have not been equally spread and the risk of poverty remains among the highest in the EU. The increase was driven by a 1 percentage point increase in the share of people living in households with very low work intensity (10.2 %) while the share of both people at risk-of-poverty (21.9 %) and severely materially deprived people (13.5 %) decreased marginally in 2016 but remain significantly above the EU averages of 17.3 % and 7.5 %, respectively. The elderly, people with disabilities, children, single parent households (mainly headed by women) and the unemployed remain particularly affected by poverty and social exclusion since the impact of social transfers is not efficient in reducing poverty. [36] Against that background, we discusses potential win-win structural policies that could be implemented in Lithuania to deliver both higher growth and stronger inclusiveness in the future. We focus especially on the social partnership between private and NGO sectors, intensive social services decentralization and social business integrated in labour market together with social assistance and health policies which are complementary for simultaneously strengthening labour participation and well-being. The main messages from the working paper are the following: · Good-quality employment is the principal route out of poverty. Further promoting labour market institutions that are conducive to strong job creation, higher employability for the most vulnerable and better job satisfaction are therefore instrumental to promote inclusiveness. Taking measures to further reduce the tax wedge on the low-skilled and to promote lifelong learning will all help in this regard.

The risk of unemployment is, however, inherent in a decentralized labour market and is even larger in an economy like Lithuania’s, where economic volatility and the convergence process mean labour is frequently displaced. Against this background, reforming the social model in line with a flexicurity approach, as envisaged by the authorities, appears appropriate. However, to be effective and to reduce the risk that job loss leads to poverty, a reform package of the labour market should couple a relaxation of strict employment protection with adequate unemployment benefits and effective active labour market programs. Those policies require greater resources but they would potentially lead to higher fiscal revenue as labour market outcomes improve. Along with people at risk of being temporarily unemployed, there will always be vulnerable individuals with lower job prospects. Adapting the social assistance system to ensure that it provides adequate incentives and it is well-coordinated with the unemployment insurance system is critical. The current social assistance system is the main social protection in Lithuania, but it should be made more effective at alleviating poverty and as a pathway to employment. Good health is a prerequisite for the labour market and social policies to be effective at increasing labour force participation and productivity. International experience suggests in particular that better health raises employment, and that unemployment tends to weaken health (Barnay, 2014). Health policies thus appear integral to an inclusive growth strategy in Lithuania. In particular, prevention policies and healthy lifestyle, especially through lower alcohol and tobacco consumption which is comparatively high, can further contribute to reduce premature mortality and improve well-being in Lithuania.

Main findings

  • The legislation on employment protection is strict but not well-enforced. This creates uncertainty for workers and for firms, and may undermine job creation.
  • At already 50 % of the median wage, the minimum wage is binding and room for further increases without undermining employability of low-skilled is limited.
  • The comparatively high share of low wage earners among the high skilled suggests also that informal wage payments (“envelope wages”) are common.
  • The unemployment insurance system covers only a small share of the unemployed, does not shelter against poverty risk in the case of job loss, and provides insufficient financial support for effective job search.
  • Public employment services are understaffed and re-employment programs are too small to effectively tackle structural unemployment.
  • Relatively poor working conditions and underdevelopment of lifelong learning result in poor career prospects for workers and fuel emigration and informality.
  • The social assistance system does not sufficiently alleviate poverty risk.
  • Disincentives to take a job are comparatively high for social assistance benefit recipients not eligible for in-work benefits and for large families.
  • Cooperation between municipalities and public employment services to provide adequate programs for social assistance recipients is underdeveloped.
  • Sanctions on social assistance recipients are too strict and contribute to poverty risks and social exclusion for the most vulnerable.
  • Life expectancy is low and strongly dependent on socio-economic background.
  • There is still room for restructuring the hospital network, reducing the reliance on hospitalization and promoting further primary care services.

The strategy of positive socialization constructed on the principle of 3D (multifunctional, multi-criteria and multisectoral) model unites active involvement, social enterprise, positive socialization and systemic comprehensive assistance for welfare of persons, families, social groups and communities.

5 Lithuania from the perspective of demographic and job quality challenge

Social capital is a measure of particularized and generalized trust, social participation, integrity and norms of reciprocity [37]. It also represents resources accessed through social networks [38] that help people to achieve their goals, facilitate coordination, communication, resolution of collective dilemmas, reduce the incentives for opportunism, broaden the participants’ sense of self, developing perception of ‘we’ [39]. The distinction is made between bonding social capital, which results from interactions within a group of people like oneself, and bridging as well as linking social capital, both of them representing interactions with people from different groups. While bridging social capital refers to horizontal trust among different groups at the same level of social scale, linking social capital describes relationships among groups with power differences (e.g. patron/client or mentor/mentee relationships). This also suggests the multi-contextual nature of social capital, identifying the different social networks that contribute to securing adolescents’ sense of belonging. Other studies suggest that, by assessing the relative importance of adolescents’ social capital within the family, school, and neighborhood contexts, a better understanding of the impact of these contexts on adolescents’ self-rated health will be obtained.

OECD Review of Labour Market and Social Policies: Lithuania says that the population has been declining by more than 1 % annually since the early 2000s, as people leave to seek better-paid quality jobs abroad. The working-age population is forecast to decline by about 9 % between 2015 and 2020, and by a further 20 % in the 2020s. The old-age dependency ratio is thus expected to increase from 28 old-age people for every hundred working-age residents in 2015 to 46 in 2030, a sharper increase than in most OECD countries.

Lithuania’s wage lag most OECD countries
Fig. 5 Lithuania’s wage lag most OECD countries

Wage gaps with other European countries are closing too slowly to suggest that emigration will decline soon, according to the report. Income inequality is also very high and the poorest households have seen little improvement in their living standards over the last years.

“To better share the fruits of economic growth, labour market inequalities and large regional disparities in employment and educational outcomes must be addressed,” said Stefano Scarpetta, OECD Director for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, launching the report in Vilnius with Linas Kukuraitis, Lithuania’s Minister for Social Security and Labour. “Moreover, efforts should be made to enhance job quality, given the still widespread informal employment and low wages. The share of informal workers not covered by social security or labour laws is higher than in any other EU country except Latvia.” “Becoming a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is one of the most important strategic goals of Lithuania,” said Linas Kukuraitis, Lithuania’s Minister for Social Security and Labour. “We are glad that part of the OECD‘s recommendations for Lithuania are already being implemented. For example, the reform of Lithuanian Labour Exchange, increasing the adequacy of cash social assistance by increasing the amount of state supported income and introducing the amount of minimum consumption needs calculation methodology.” [40] Recent reforms of the Labour Code, the unemployment insurance system, employment policies, minimum-income benefits and public pensions have reduced incentives for informal employment and raised income security. However, resources devoted to labour market and social policies remain limited.

To motivate to growing social services and finance active labour market programs, Lithuania can start to active decentralized social market and include more private and NGO sectors to take active part in it. Changing the tax structure to make more freedom for social, family business, community based programs and others social economy tools and balance tax system with society welfare indexes would help for highest quality, as would introducing higher property, capital gains and social environmental welfares. More needs to be done to attract emigrants to come back. Return rates are less than 40 % for the migrants who left in 2010, and later emigrants are less likely to return. Among those who do return, more than two-thirds do not work, making them more likely to leave again. The Global Lithuania program, designed to ensure the continued involvement of the diaspora in the life of the state, is currently underfunded and needs to be better resourced, especially to support returning workers. More efforts should also be made to promote job opportunities to Lithuanians unsatisfied with their jobs abroad.

Issues of consumer education have already been integrated into a number of subjects taught in Lithuania’s secondary schools; however, the systematic approach towards teaching is still at its onset and needs to be promoted further. Teaching includes little theory and is typically limited to occasionally practical exercises. For example, the syllabus of technology classes includes consumer issues under the topic Culture of Consumption in Estonia, Norway and England andthe syllabus of social science includes the topic of consumer rights and responsibilities. On the teacher training level, several graduate courses have been taught, but there is still a need for new attitudes towards the content of teaching and qualifications to be gained. Teaching materials are also few.  [41]

6 Conclusions

To encourage social innovation, more trust and better partnership between business, NGO and research sectors is needed.

Continue with overall reform of the education, social, health and cultural systems and balanced this reforms at all levels, addressing social partnership functions, skills mismatch.

Recent pension reforms, which form part of the New Social Model, have made the system more sustainable, but the OECD [42] suggests that further steps, such as a rise in minimum pensions and positive discrimination tools for families with child poverty or special needs are needed to reduce old-age and families poverty. Payments into pension funds should be made compulsory.

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Giedrė Kvieskiene Giedrė Kvieskienė
Prof. PhD., Giedrė Kvieskienė is an Expert in social economy and education policy, with a focus on positive socialization, communication and social business. Her research interests relate in particular to social partnership, social business, and smart socialization. She was the project coordinator for EU-Tempus project in Lithuania, Advancing the three-cycle system of social work education in six European countries. Prof. dr. G. Kvieskienė was the member of the European Consul program, based on research on policies and practices teaching sociocultural diversity (2006-2009). She is also are Honor President NGO Confederation for Children and Expert of The European Anti-poverty Network and professor of the Social Education Faculty in Lithuanian University of Educational Science and Lithuanian CIVITAS INTERNATIONAL coordinator in the “CIVITAS INTERNATIONAL” world network. She is a member of a Socrates project, New Modules of Activism in European Social Work and creator of a module on cultural diversity and migration.

Research interests: Positive Socialization, Smart Education, Social Industries, Social Communication, Media and Education.
Research Gate:


Vytautas  KvieskaVytautas Kvieska
Vytautas Kvieska is a lecturer at Vytautas Magnus University in Social Economy, Couching and Social Business for Bachelor's students and Social Economy and Entrepreneurship for Master's students.
Vytautas Kvieska is an innovative designer and entrepreneur. He is an expert in social economics and social business. He has published more than 30 articles in the scientific and practical fields. He is one of the first authors of social economy in Lithuania, known for his monograph on social partnership and innovation.


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Cite this publication
Kvieskienė, Giedrė and Vytautas Kvieska, 2019. Social Capital for Smart and Sustainable Development in Lithuania. In: socialnet International [online]. 06.06.2019 [Date of citation: 21.10.2021]. ISSN 2627-6348. Available from Internet: