The Latvian diaspora; a tough challenge for the future

Riga, Latvia

A total of 6,563 people emigrated from Latvia during the first five months of the year. In other words, 43 persons left the country every day in Jan-May.

The data, which is available in the Central Statistic Bureau’s website, is likely to increase, for the number of emigrants during the month of June is yet to be published.

The figures may help to explain the ‘unexpected’ shrinkage of population in the small Baltic country, which will be confirmed as soon as the Government releases the results of the population census carried out from March to May.

Latvia took one of the sharpest economic downturns in the world in 2008. The Baltic country had to ask for an external bailout to face the impact of the global economic crisis. Although growth is slowly picking up, the country is still paying a high human toll.

The Latvian authorities expected to reach 2,3 million people, however this number has proved to be far too optimistic. The decline in population varies, but it goes from the 150,000 – positive ones – to up to 300,000 – more pessimistic.

Roberts Zile, chairman of Latvia’s ‘For Fatherland and Freedom’/LNNK party and MEP in the new European Conservatives and Reformists party, confirmed the above figures and said; “It is a bit worrying because we may have lost some 300 thousand inhabitants and the country does need them.

“In a moment of economic recovery, we need labour and that means that if we do not have we will need immigrants.”

But a call for immigrants is not as easy as it could seem. Latvian society is not fully integrated and is still dragging on post Soviet traumas. Thus, integrating newcomers may prove a tough challenge for both the Latvian government and its society.

“There is an important lack of skilled labour in certain sectors right now,” said Nils Muižnieks, director of the Advanced Social and Political Research Institute of the University of Latvia.

“Some investor have showed eagerness in investing money in the country, but they have not done so because there is a lack of workers.

“The Government could either shrink the services provided by the state, something that happened in East Germany when a lot of people left for West Germany, or try to attract immigrants. The latter would be the easiest one, but it would also imply measures to integrate them in our society.

“Latvians living abroad should also be a target for the authorities. Nevertheless, any call right now for them to return back home would be unconvincing until the economy starts growing again and the country has another political culture, not as alienating as it is now.”

(*) This article has also been published in The Baltic Review



Filed under Citizenship, History, News, Social Integration

8 responses to “The Latvian diaspora; a tough challenge for the future

  1. Arjan Tupan

    Again an interesting post, Ruben! Today I was at a seminar, in which some answers were shared by the German Chamber of Commerce in the Baltics on questions they had asked German investors. Either ones that had invested here already, or those that had the option to invest in Latvia, but chose to put there money elsewhere. The three main issues for German investors (and these sentiments seem to be shared by others) are: bad laws and bad enforcement of laws; bad bureaucracy and… corruption. So maybe the issue of not investing is not necessarily linked to a lack of workers, as Mr Muiznieks said. Even though the population has declined, there are still many without jobs here.

    • Ruben Martínez

      Thanks Arjan! I saw your tweet from the seminar, what a shame I hadn’t heard of it, otherwise I’d have attended!
      I agree with you, all the things you mention put off investors to open more facilities in here. Nils focused on the social and human side of the coin, but there is the political and economic one, the one you talk about and which is really important.
      There are still jobless population, but you have to bear in mind that perhaps they are not able to access to this labour market. Interesting debate that we should keep up in here with other posts!

  2. I had not really considered the labour market from that perspective. I disagree with at least one side of Muiznieks analysis. I don’t think that there is any real solution in shrinking state services even further. If you listen to people leaving, one thing that you here is that they actually want to go to countries with services.

    As for attracting the so call diaspora (actually emigre). The real problem there is that most of the western post-WWII diaspora doesn’t speak Russian and there is a strong undercurrent of discrimination in non-state jobs against non-RU speakers.

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