«In 2013, Latvia had the lowest proportion of funding allocated for social insurance benefits in the European Union – 14% of GDP. This had very little impact on poverty reduction in the country,» – the European Commission mentioned about Latvia in its report.
The report mentions that Latvia’s contribution to social exclusion prevention measures (including guaranteed minimal income index) is only 0.1% of GDP, whereas the average index across Europe is 0.5%. Contribution to housing benefits is just as small: 0.1% of GDP (0.6% in Europe). Social assistance funding is completely decentralized and could increase regional inequality even more. In addition, the country’s social assistance system does not provide sufficient support to people wishing to return to the labour market.
The committee points with hope to Latvia’s government plan for 2017 to establish a minimal income level. This plan is intended to provide a general social security network. Nevertheless, the ombudsman has reason to be sceptical about the realization of certain parts of the concept. Specifically, he believes the realization of the minimal income level is not provided in the government’s budget plan for 2017, as reported by the Latvian Ombudsman’s Office.
«Year after year, listening to residents’ opinions and assessing the contents in their applications, I have come to the conclusions that Latvia’s largest problem is poverty; the kind of poverty in which most residents are not responsible for. This does not apply to residents who decided to live by their own rules: not work, not study, not pay taxes, not pay attention to their health, etc. I am worried about the fate of those residents who were responsible for themselves, others and their country but ended up in a tough situation. It is worrying because those are the people who are supposed to receive state protection are children, pensioners, invalids, incomplete families and asylum seekers,» – comments ombudsman Juris Jansons.
31% of Latvia’s population or 606,000 people are subjected to poverty risk. The country has one of the biggest differences between the income of wealthy and poor people. In 2012, 10% of the country’s wealthiest people earned 26% of all income in the country.
70% or 322,000 of pensioners in Latvia receive pensions not larger than EUR 300. With that, unlike other countries, Latvia has a relatively high poverty risk proportion among old people. An especially high poverty and social exclusion risk is noted among women of pension age – up to 47%. If the woman lives alone, the poverty risk index reaches 67%. People working in low-qualified jobs and paid minimum wages are subjected to a high poverty risk as well. 9% of employed people in Latvia are subjected to poverty risk.
The highest unemployment risk is noted in Latgale – up to 40% of Latvia’s poorest residents live in Latgale (13% in Riga).
The overall satisfaction of Latvian residents with healthcare is one of the lowest in the European Union. Healthcare accessibility is very limited. Approximately every fifth Latvian resident would not be able to turn to a healthcare specialist in the event of an emergency. In addition, the number of invalids has increased in Latvia over the past several years.