Lithuania: Migrant workers satisfied with working conditions

A survey on the working and living conditions of migrant workers in Lithuania carried out in 2014–2015 found that most work on fixed-term contracts and have long working hours. However, they are generally satisfied with their jobs, apart from some dissatisfaction around pay and work matching educational level.

Introduction

Between April 2014 and June 2015, researchers from the Lithuanian Social Research Centre (LSTC) and the non-governmental organisation Diversity Development Group (DDG) conducted a survey, Working and living conditions of migrant workers in Lithuania, funded by the European Fund for Integration of Third-Country Nationals (EIF). The project’s main objective was to produce a list of indicators that could be used to evaluate integration policy, labour immigration policy and labour migration processes relating to third-country labour migrants. One of the steps in the project was a survey of migrant workers (citizens of non-EU countries) in Lithuania, conducted between November 2014 and February 2015. The survey aimed to identify the main characteristics of migrant workers (their distribution by nationality, sex and economic sectors), as well as investigating job quality aspects such as:

  • forms of employment (temporary/permanent contract of employment, period of employment);
  • workload;
  • health and safety at work;
  • salaries.

In total, 321 respondents participated in the survey. 

Figures provided by the Lithuanian Labour Exchange (LDB) show that a total of 5,382 work permits were issued to foreigners in Lithuania in 2014. From 2011 to 2014, the majority of labour migrants were employed in the service sector as drivers of international freight transport (accounting for 68% and 80% of total work permits issued in 2011 and 2014, respectively). Approximately 97% of labour immigrants in Lithuania were men. It should also be also noted that, in Lithuania, work permits are issued in accordance with the lists of professions (prepared by the Government) which are in short supply on the labour market.

Main findings

Profile of respondents

The majority of the survey’s 321 respondents were male immigrants (93%) working in the service sector (82%), who arrived in Lithuania from Ukraine (47%) and Belarus (28%). Just over two-thirds (68%) are aged 25–44 years. Most are also skilled workers: 46% of the respondents reported having vocational/post-secondary education, 20% had higher education and 26% a secondary education. Some 79% of the respondents had similar work experience prior to arriving in Lithuania; almost one-third of them (28%) had worked in other foreign countries. In Lithuania, most labour migrants (61%) work in their chosen professions.

Working conditions of labour migrants

Forms of employment

The analysis of the forms of employment reveals that most labour migrants work under fixed-term contracts valid for between one and two years. Some 65% of the respondents reported having fixed-term work contracts, of which 41% were for less than one year and 24% for under two years. Most labour migrants are salaried employees (95%) working in the private sector (87%). The majority (76%) work in Lithuanian companies.

Workload and wages

The survey shows that the majority of labour migrants (72%) work more than 40 hours per week in Lithuania (20% of these reported working more than 50 hours per week). Some 18% of the respondents were not able to indicate the exact number of their working hours due to the nature of their job.

The survey also shows that the majority of the respondents are not satisfied with their current working hours. Only 27% of the respondents said they would like to maintain them. One-quarter (26%) would like to work more than 50 hours per week; 13% wanted to work 40–50 hours per week; 27% wanted to work fewer than 40 working hours per week; and 7% had no opinion.

The findings also showed that the majority of labour migrants (76%) are paid more than the average monthly wage in Lithuania (€553.9 in 2015). Some 44% reported earning between €501 and €1,000 per month and 24% said they were paid between €1,001 and €2,000 per month. Pay exceeding €2,001 was reported by 9% of the respondents. However, 24% of the respondents reported earning less than €500 per month. It should be noted that many respondents tended not to answer questions about their wages, or were not able to indicate the exact amounts they were paid. Furthermore, major differences have been observed in the level of wages/salaries within the same sector. This suggests that survey findings here should be viewed with caution.

Health and safety at work

Almost half of the labour migrants interviewed said that work affects their health. While the majority of respondents (87%) reported being 'very well' or 'well' informed on health and safety risks in their workplace, about a quarter (27%) said they did not use the required protective equipment.

According to the survey findings, around one-fifth of labour migrants (18%) have been subjected to verbal abuse at work and 5% having experienced physical violence at work.

Job satisfaction

More than half of labour migrants (57%) were found to be satisfied with their current job in Lithuania, with 33% satisfied in part, and 10% dissatisfied. The main reasons for job dissatisfaction were insufficient pay (40%), unattractive work (25%), and under-use of their skills or experience (16%). Respondents who chose the answer ‘other’ mentioned disagreements with employers (‘treating employees with ignorance’), unfair accounting of working time (‘cheating', '[wage/salary] reductions’), dissatisfaction with working conditions (‘far from home’, ‘stressful work’).

According to the survey, labour migrants are often recruited for lower-qualified jobs than their level of education would suggest. Some 39% of the respondents said they were competent to carry out far more complex tasks than the ones they performed. Only one-fifth of respondents (21%) agreed that there were perfect career opportunities in their workplace.

As regards their current workplace, most labour migrants (41%) agreed with the statements that they were well paid for their work (as opposed to 27% of those who disagreed) and had very good friends at work (agreed by 63% and disagreed with by 11%). However, just slightly more than one-fifth of the respondents (23%) said that they were motivated in their organisation to try to perform their best.

Commentary

The research findings have shown in order to to reduce the vulnerability of migrant workers in the Lithuanian labour market, it would be necessary to:

  • focus more on raising migrants’ awareness of their rights in Lithuania;
  • provide information on NGOs dealing with migrants’ protection;
  • provide information about trade unions.

According to the researchers, it would be also appropriate to get trade unions involved in the protection of migrant workers and to ensure efficient mediation services and representation of migrants in labour dispute resolution and other similar areas.

 

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