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Wednesday 08.04.2020 | Name days: Dana, Dans, Danute, Edgars

Demographer: Latvia has the lowest birth rate level observed the past decade

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Latvia, population, tendencies, demographic challengesBirth rates continued to decline in Latvia in 2019. The lowest level of the past decade was reached in the country last year, says demographer Ilmārs Mežs.

Mežs predicted a further worsening of birth rates in the coming years unless the main obstacle that delays the formation of new families is not overcome soon. After looking at the current demographic problems, the expert said politicians should primarily focus on tax discounts for young parents, improvement of benefits and accessibility of kindergartens, especially in Riga.

The expert says the average number of children in families continues to decline.

According to Mežs, the state is not doing enough to reduce obstacles families with one child and families with multiple children face. One such problem is inaccessibility of kindergartens.

The expert adds Latvia should follow in the footsteps of other Baltic States, especially Estonia, which invests nearly two times more than Latvia into the improvement of their demographic situation. As a result of these efforts, Estonia’s population reduces by approximately one thousand a year, whereas Latvia’s population declines by approximately 10 000 ever year, says the demographer.

Mežs stresses there is a clear correlation between state support for young families and birth rates. In this regard there are improvements observed for Scandinavian countries’ demographic situation, whereas in Southern Europe is the opposite. The expert said that demographic indexes-wise Latvia is closer to Southern Europe, where birth rates are in decline and countries do relatively little to improve the situation.

Primarily, the state should think about reducing the poverty of families, because this is the main factor that de-motivates potential parents. As for other chances that could affect the demographic situation, the expert criticized the increase of guaranteed minimal income, claiming the changes will not affect families with children, adding it will only demotivate residents from having children.

As for support measures that could improve the demographic situation, Mežs said there is the possible increase of benefits for guardians. The expert outlined last year’s planned initiative to divert EUR 3.6 million as grants for families with multiple children to afford housing.

Mežs outlined changes to the way parent benefits are calculated – from 2020 onward benefits for women eligible for parent benefit and whose next child was born before the last one reached the age of three will not be allowed to be lower than parent benefits paid for the previous child.

According to the expert, one of the main reasons for inequality now is the fact that women’s pension savings do not increase while they are on child care leave, which means a relatively small pension in the future. According to the demographer, this is a clear example of gender discrimination. Mežs says Finance Ministry has been instrumental in delaying this problem’s solution.

When asked about other demographic trends, the expert says immigration has increased, which is because of both students and guest workers.

Read also: Latvia’s territories with the largest percentage of children – Mārupe, Ādaži and Babīte

Last year, Mežs presented Saeima’s Citizenship, Migration and Social Cohesion Committee with demographic and global migration challenges in Latvia, adding that Latgale region is expected to suffer the most severe population decline. «While in 2015 this region had a population of 282 000, by 2020 this region’s population may drop to 204 000,» the expert said.

He added that in 2015 Riga’s population was 641 000, whereas the outlook for 2030 states this region’s population may drop to 625 000. In Kurzeme, the population was 238 000 in 2015. The region’s population may drop to 201 000 by 2030.

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