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Tuesday 22.08.2017 | Name days: Rudīte, Everts
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Demographic scientist: not even the least done to solve migration issue

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Ilmars Mezhs, head of IOM Riga office

The only thing that has been done to address the rapidly shrinking population issue is that talks have been started on the necessity to do something, Ilmars Mezsh, demographic scientist, board chairman of the Future Fund (Nākotnes fonds) and head of International Organization for Migration (IOM) Riga office, told in an interview to the news agency BNN.

The Fund’s manager is not surprised about Estonian Human Development’s report released in August. It indicated that rapid demographic decline and population migration is the key problem in the Baltic States.

«Indeed, the long-term problem of the Baltic States, entire Eastern Europe, but especially Latvia, is the low birth rate, emigration and population aging,» Mezhs says, adding that the Latvian population is dropping too rapidly. Since 1990, we have lost 0.5 – 0.7 million residents, depending on how many emigrants will be counted along with Latvia’s permanent residents. «So, every third or fourth resident has been lost during one generation. Consequently, there will be enough people in Latvia only for three to four generations…» Mezhs adds.

He also points out that society tends to assume that the population can reduce, for example, by a million, and then maintain this minimum. «Unfortunately, it will be impossible to implement this utopia, because when the population shrinks down to a million, it will go on declining at an even faster pace. It is an avalanche-like process, which cannot be stopped halfway,» Mezhs says.

The head of the Future Fund notes that already now the number of children and youngsters under 18 years is two times smaller than the one of population over 18 years. «After some years, these young people will become parents, and if they continue to have only one child on average, the number of their children will halve. It will be four times smaller compared to their grandparents’ generation. In other words, if we fail to adequately support our new families so that they would have on average at least two children, then the population extinction will be inevitable in one generation’s time,» Mezhs says. He emphasizes that now is the time to improve the situation, especially over the next five years, while we have the largest number of twenty-year-olds.

Asked whether everything possible is done to improve the situation, Mezhs says that «neither everything possible, nor at least the minimum is done. Unfortunately, until now almost nothing has been done to solve the issue. There have only been talks that something should be done». He hopes that the first discussion round will be completed and that new families in Latvia will feel public and municipal support already in 2012. This could take the form of all children guaranteed a place in kindergartens. «Hopefully, all the pre-election promises in demography area will be met. I do not see any great actions, but the main mistake is that people still hope for a miracle – that this situation will resolve on its own, without a significant contribution from the state budget,» Mezhs says.

Culture, Foreign Affairs, Economy, Interior, Education and Science, Welfare and Environmental Protection and Regional Development Ministries are currently drawing up a report on the necessary actions to facilitate returning back Latvia’s residents who have gone abroad to search for a job. «Certainly, it is very necessary. Only, if politicians hope that any major improvements will be achieved within the current budget, without granting additional funds, this document will be yet another dream without real use,» the Fund’s manager says.


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