Lithuanian officials say the country's population has shrunk to below 3 million, representing a near 20 percent drop in two decades.

The government statistics office says there were 2,988,000 people living in the Baltic nation at the beginning of September, 19,300 less than in January. In 1992, after Lithuania broke away from the Soviet Union, its population was 3.7 million.

The head of the agency Vilija Lapeniene on Friday said emigration was "among the strongest factors in this process." Large numbers of Lithuanians have moved abroad, especially to Ireland and Britain. The number of deaths from January to September also exceeded births by 4,200.

The government is concerned that the decline has happened despite the 2004 membership in the European Union and improvements in living standards over the past decade.