Latvia has undergone major economic and social change since the early 1990s. Despite an exceptionally deep recession following the global financial crisis, impressive economic growth over the past two decades has narrowed income and productivity gaps relative to comparator countries in the OECD. But Latvians report low degrees of life satisfaction, very large numbers of Latvians have left the country, and growth has not been inclusive. A volatile economy and very large income disparities create pressing needs for more effective social and labour-market policies. The government’s reform programme rightly acknowledges inequality as a key challenge. However, without sustained policy efforts and adequate resources, there is a risk that productivity and income growth could remain below potential and social cohesion could be further weakened by high or rising inequality.
In 2012, official statistics for outflows from Latvia totalled 25 200 while inflows were 12 300. In 2013, outflows fell to 22 600 and inflows fell to 8 300. In both years official net migration was thus negative, at -11 900.
The Baltic countries have experienced sustained emigration over the past decade, contributing to population decline and a loss of working-age population. The impact is felt strongly in the labour market, the general economy and in social developments. The Baltic countries are not alone in tackling these challenges. This book brings together the recent experience of various OECD countries in developing policies to cope with emigration.