European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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Latvia

29 June 2017

Latvia: decline of working population asks for more investment in youngsters

Compared with the other Baltic states Latvia is aging rapidly. This is mainly due to the fact that young people are leaving the country. The remedy has to be sought in more investment in youngsters. Together with the employers, the trade unions are promoting the vocational training.

Migration studies reveal that the country is becoming demographically top-heavy. The share of elderly citizens in the total population increases more quickly than the inflow of young and middle-aged population, i.e. persons who are at the age of labour activity. Next to a low birth rate, the country is faced with substantial out-migration of the younger part of the population to other countries with good working opportunities. As of 1 January 2017, the total population was estimated to be 1,933,400 people (a decrease of -1.18%, compared to one year earlier) with 14,146 citizens leaving the country. After a peak in 1990 (with a population of 2,665,000) the number of inhabitants in the country has fallen. A strong increase in employment rates since 2010 can be explained primarily by a decline of the youth population, not by an increase of the number of youth in employment.

According to the OECD investing in youth is a must in the country. Therefore a reform of the vocational education system is needed that strengthens the role of work-based training, through the development of a quality apprenticeship system. During the 8th Congress of the Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia in December 2016, the delegates called for a policy that influences education policy and legislation on education, with the aim to establish a decent national qualification system. The trade union participated in the project ‘Improvement of National Qualification System, Vocational Education Contents and Cooperation among the Bodies Involved in Vocational Education’, together with the government and the employers’ confederation. The project aimed to improve the quality and efficiency of vocational education and training. This was followed by activities in the frame of the current project VET For Employment.  

Another policy measure, as expressed by industrial relation experts, could be the decision to lower the retirement age for those elderly workers who do not want or cannot work, in order to free up jobs for young people, who particularly feel the burden of unemployment and to motivate them to participate in social programs and pension funds. But the current pensions do not provide effective protection against poverty and social exclusion.

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