Monday 6. December 2021
2009
COMECE Press 09/10/2009

 

The first Catholic Social Days for Europe

"Solidarity - the challenge for europe"

 

8-11 October 2009

3rd Session:  Europe's families

 

Families, the vital cells of society, need Europe's solidarity

 

Report

9 October 2009

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Pope John Paul II once said, Since the Creator of all things has established the conjugal partnership as the beginning and basis of human society, the family is the first and vital cell of society. The family has vital and organic links with society, since it is its foundation and nourishes it continually through its role of service to life: it is from the family that citizens come to birth and it is within the family that they find the first school of the social virtues that are the animating principle of the existence and development of society itself. Thus, far from being closed in on itself, the family is by nature and vocation open to other families and to society, and undertakes its social role.

 

Family has been a major value in Lithuania since ancient times and Lithuanians have always possessed deeply rooted family traditions. This is apparently one of the major factors that has led to the survival of such a small nation. The findings of a recent public opinion poll have also proved that Lithuanians today consider family to be equally important: the majority of men and women in Lithuania indicate that family is the most important area of life (66 per cent of women and 53 per cent of men).

 

The Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania stipulates that the family shall be the basis of society and the State and that family, motherhood, fatherhood and childhood shall be under the protection and care of the State. The Constitution links family to marriage, which is unambiguously defined as a union between man and woman.  It also establishes parental duties to children and children's duties to parents. Whereas family is a constitutional value, policy makers have to provide for the legal regulation aimed at strengthening family relations since it is the family that can best ensure quality alternation of generations.

 

The Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania drafted the National Family Policy Concept, which was adopted by the resolution of the Seimas in June last year. This document underlines the importance of family formed through marriage and defines policy trends supporting the family. The national family policy aims at establishing and pursuing general policy that supports and reinforces the family and that ensures general conditions in providing differentiated aid and services to the family in all the areas by state and public institutions, thus enabling the family to become an independent, responsible, solid, stable, active and a self-sufficient institution capable of fulfilling its functions effectively.

 

Since living in a family is the most favourable condition for an effective socialisation of each individual, the priorities of the national family policy cover development of a family-friendly environment enabling families to perform the procreation (reproduction) function while combining it with other functions ensuring family socialisation; development of differentiated comprehensive family services enhancing parent functions and aiming at preserving the family and proper socialisation of children; support to educational and social assistance programmes that help to restore positive family experience and employ it to educate people that have no families (children raised in single-parent families, divorced or solitary people) and to foster their courage and ability to create a family by taking on marriage commitments; as well as, formation of a positive public attitude towards family, primarily through the public education system, the national broadcaster, and other state institutions; and restriction of  publicity factors that destroy the family institution.

 

A number of families in Lithuania, especially active and conscious families and those taking part in the movement of large families openly underline that financial aid is important to them, but it is not only financial aid that matters most and that primarily constitutes the foundation of the family policy. In the context of the modern world, when people question family values, ignore the family or even refer to it as an obsolete institution hindering woman's self-expression and professional career, there is a need for a national position on family matters that preserves and protects the family. I have in mind an exceptionally positive national attitude towards the family manifested by legislation, political attention, and consideration of family in decision making at all levels. Sometimes it could simply mean that top officials have to find courage to declare at various national and international fora that family is our priority and that we advocate living in a family without any reservation.

 

Currently, despite the economic limitations, specific steps have been taken to implement the guidelines of the National Family Policy Concept. The Guidelines are set out in the Programme of the 15th Government of the Republic of Lithuania were family policy is given a priority. With a view to control demographic changes, the Government Programme outlines three areas of action:

- Promoting living in a family;

- Increasing birth rate;

- Defeating behavioural poverty.

 

Our key long-term objective is to increase the population from 2.8 million to 4 million people in Lithuania by 2050.

 

The objectives of the family policy can be effectively attained only through concentrated cooperation among both state institutions and public organisations. Taking this into consideration, an initiative to draft the National Accord on Family Matters was made.

 

Among a number of issues the National Accord defines the key objectives relevant to the joint activity of public authorities, the third sector, business, and other stakeholders:

 

I. Ensuring family wellbeing and financial security;

II. Developing family services;

III Improving conditions for performing the procreation function of the family;

IV Forming a positive public attitude towards the family;

 

The objectives and tasks that are defined in the National Accord on Family Matters and that are already being implemented by specific measures are significant to every family. The settlement of the positions on the National Accord and its adoption are foreseen by the end of this year.

 

In the context of the implementation of specific measures of the family policy, it is noteworthy that in Lithuania, which has the longest period of maternity leave in the EU, families are entitled to maternity (paternity) allowance amounting to 100 per cent of reimbursed remuneration during the first year and to 85 per cent of reimbursed remuneration during the second year.

 

Given multiple childbirth, maternity (paternity) allowance is multiplied by the number of children born simultaneously, i.e., the amount is multiplied by two in the case of twins and by three in the case of triplets.  This provision is also applied when children are born at one-year interval.

 

It is worthwhile noting that a longer period of maternity leave helps to strengthen the bond between mother and child, encourages women to have children, and allows to curb the demographic crisis.

 

Even during the economic crisis, the provision has basically been preserved with the reduction of the amount of the allowance by 10% only.

 

On 1 July 2006, for the first time ever, the legislation of Lithuania granted fathers the right of a one-month parental leave immediately after childbirth. During the paternity leave period, employees are entitled to paternity allowance amounting to 100 per cent of the allowance beneficiary's reimbursed remuneration. Many young families expressed considerable interest in this type of leave. Since 1 July 2009, the Board of the State Social Insurance Fund has received 180 paternity allowance applications. It should be noted that there is a certain key precondition for the father in order to claim for the paternity allowance: he has to be married to the mother of the child.

 

The efficiency of the current family policy in Lithuania can be illustrated by way of statistics: the number of newlywed couples increased by 1000 and the birth rate grew by 3,5 thousand in 2008, in comparison to 2007. But what are the ways of preserving a family-friendly environment in times of the economic crisis?

 

A public opinion poll that was carried out during the awareness-raising campaign proved once again how important the issue of striking the right balance between work and family obligations is (57 per cent of the respondents in Lithuania claimed that they have no possibilities of balancing their family life and career).

 

It is also very important to note that we make every effort to take advantage of resources provided by the European Social Fund in addressing the problems of family and work balance. On 7 August 2009, 19 contracts on the implementation of the projects under the measure Balancing Family Commitments and Work under the Lithuanian Operational Programme for the Development of Human Resources for 2007-2013 were signed. The total sum of the projects amounts to 48,6 million Litas. The duration of the projects is 3 years. The projects will be implemented in the majority of the regions by non-governmental organisations, budgetary institutions and private business entities on the principle of partnership.

 

It is crucial to engage public organisations representing families and families themselves in the implementation of family policy instruments. In order to ensure that politicians move in the right direction, it is necessary to control them and to adopt a bottom-up approach, that is, it is necessary to turn to the families for advice, since the families are the people, for whose benefit we are working. We consider it is meaningful to promote activities of family organisations and to invite these organisations to become active social partners, as well as to encourage family organisations to cooperate with public institutions and to provide assistance and support to each other, since nobody else but the family knows best about its needs and what kind of aid or support it requires.

 

It seems likely that the public project called Harmonious Family that is under way will facilitate the achievement of these objectives. The aim of this project is to encourage harmonious families to reveal the secrets of their successful relations and to set a good example for other Lithuanian families and society at large. The most harmonious families from all the counties in Lithuania will be selected to compete for awards in five categories, including the award for fostering traditions, the award for social activities, and the award for the young generation, the award for a successful family business, and the award for contacts between generations. Finally, the celebration event will be arranged in the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania in honour of the most harmonious Lithuanian families.

 

I would also like to mention another good initiative called Family Ambassador. On the occasion of the International Family Day, the Ministry of Social Security and Labour of the Republic of Lithuania announced the first Family Ambassadors, that is, the families that foster family values through daily activities and who are ready to continue to pursue the same approach in the future. Elected Family Ambassadors are the harmonious families that are well-known to the Lithuanian society and local communities, and that respect family values, contribute to cherishing family values in Lithuania, and that daily promote the good message about the value and significance of the family by setting a personal example among their friends and the rest of society. The Family Ambassadors have assured that they are prepared to emphasise the importance of the family in public.

 

These and other public relations campaigns promote the Lithuanian society to reflect on the significance of family relations for every family member and on the fundamental value system of the family, as well as the importance of the role of the family institution in the state.

 

I hope that Lithuania's contribution in the field of family policy will serve as an example to other states pursuing to improve their demographic situation, to foster family relations, and to strengthen the family institution, as well as striving to establish a harmonious, safe, and secure and full-fledged environment for the children, who are our future.

 

Thank you for your attention, and let me wish constructive work to the participants of this event.

 

____

 

 

Mr. Rimantas DAGYS, Chairman of the Parliament Committee on Social Affairs and Labour (Lithuania)

 

Born on 16th July, 1957, Rimantas Dagys has a Ph. D in Natural Sciences and has been a long serving member of the Seimas since 1992. In 2009 he was a Minister of Social Security and Labour of the Republic of Lithuania.

 

 

 

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