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Welfare Minister approves of opening Latvia’s labour market for foreigners

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Welfare Minister Ramona Petraviča

Latvia’s Welfare Minister Ramona Petraviča supports the idea to open Latvia’s labour market to citizens of third countries.

This position was voiced by the politician on Thursday, 10 October, during an open meeting of the Agriculture Organizations Cooperation Council. There she mentioned that the opening of the country’s labour market to citizens of third countries is a step towards resolving the problem of the shortage of labour force. To do this, she said, it is necessary to ease residence requirements for foreigners.

«I am in favour of opening the market for citizens of third countries,» said Petraviča, adding that people without jobs are generally lasting unemployed people who do not return to the labour market, which leaves the government to search for missing workers outside the country’s borders.

At the same time, she said guest workers should be paid wages average in the industry, not average wages in the country, and that the vacant job should be registered for only ten days instead of a month. If local residents do not take the job within a specific period of time, it would be possible to hire third country residents.

Association of Latvian Forest Owners pointed attention towards abuse of social aid system. Forest industry businessmen hire highly qualified specialists to work with expensive equipment with gross wages of EUR 1 500. Often such people tend to leave work to receive unemployment benefits for unemployed people for some time. This situation needs to end.

Petraviča reminds that Welfare Ministry is working on this problem. Starting next year, unemployment benefits will be paid eight, not nine months, and in smaller amount.

Latvian Farmers Union’s business council chairperson Lienīte Caune said during the meeting that labour tax in Latvia should be reduced in accordance with reduced unemployment benefit.

Representatives of Latvian Association of Agronomists Ringolds Arnītis agreed that labour tax should be reduced. He also mentioned that some people who abuse municipal and state benefits. According to him, people of working age should work specific hours to become eligible for unemployment benefits.

Petraviča agreed that Latvia has a high labour force tax burden, which is especially heavy for low-wage recipients. The solution to this problem could be sought in 2021 along with tax review.

Jānis Bite, co-owner of Latvian fish processing company Karavela, mentioned that the tax burden should have been reviewed sooner, otherwise Latvia’s competitiveness falls behind its neighbours.

«We cannot wait until 2021, because competitors Poland and Lithuania will leave Latvia far behind even more. It is an enormous burden for businessmen. As time passes, we become less and less competitive,» he said.

Latvian Employers’ Confederation representative Pēteris Leiškalns said high labour tax for low wage recipients is a myth, because minimal wage recipients without dependents receive EUR 352 on hands, and such a person is not poor. According to him, high taxes are present for median and large wage recipients.

The minister turned the discussion’s attention that lonely seniors and large families are at the highest risk of poverty. Raising non-taxable minimum would be a supported measure.

Welfare Ministry reminded that the current government’s declaration mentions plans to increase income support, minimal state pensions and state social insurance benefits to help raise their income level and guaranteed minimal income levels. The declaration mentions commitment to review sick leave benefits.

Read also: Minister on adoption in Latvia: people want children no older than five

Businessmen mentioned that often the problem is very low motivation of people living in the countryside to look for jobs. This is where it is necessary to create a mechanism for people who leave their work voluntarily to pick any job registered with State Employment Agency and receive unemployment benefits as side-payments if a person does actual work.

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  1. Zerry says:

    I think, if the net salary is something like 352 euros, there is no reason to wonder where is all motivation hiding. And for sure, if someone else offers 400, that person releases the clutch immediately.

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