Latvia should strengthen old-age safety nets and raise the basic state pension in order to reduce pensioner poverty, especially among women, and address the challenge of a fast declining population, according to a new OECD report.
This report assesses the performance of all components of Latvia's pension system. Latvia was the first country to fully implement a non-financial (notional) defined contribution (NDC) scheme in 1996. A funded mandatory earnings-related scheme complemented NDC since 2001. Voluntary private pensions cover only limited number of people. Over the last 20 years, the severe economic crisis, population ageing and strong emigration have revealed both strengths and weaknesses of the Latvian pension system. The review assesses also the minimum and basic pension schemes which provide the first-layer of protection against the old age poverty especially for those with short or patchy careers. Separate analysis focuses on the disability and early retirement schemes, including the schemes for workers in arduous and hazardous occupations. The detailed analysis leads to tailored recommendations on how to improve the performance of each element as well as the pension system as a whole.
Latvia faces high levels of income inequality and poverty. The tax and redistribution system only partially alleviates inequalities resulting from market incomes. Long-term unemployment and inadequate minimum social protection drive poverty among the working-age population.
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.
This report provides a detailed diagnosis of the youth labour market and education system in Latvia from an international comparative perspective, and offers tailored recommendations to help improve school-to-work transitions. It also provides an opportunity for other countries to learn from the innovative measures that Latvia has taken to strengthen the skills of youth and their employment outcomes, notably through the implementation of a Youth Guarantee.
Latvia should step up its efforts to improve the employment prospects of young people by continuing to reform its vocational education system and pursuing the commitments made as part of the Youth Guarantee to further reduce the share of young people under 30 who are not in employment, education or training.