Living Conditions in LatviaLatvia is a country in the Baltic region of Europe. It has a population of about 1.9 million people. Statistics demonstrate that living conditions in Latvia are improving at a slow rate, but that Latvia also still has its fair share of problems. Listed below are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Latvia.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Latvia

  1. Poverty rates are going up. In 2017, 23.3 percent of Latvia’s population was at risk of poverty. This increased from a rate of 22.1 percent in 2016. Growth in Latvia’s poverty rate is part of an upward trend of poverty since 2010, in which the rate was 19 percent. The growth may be a result of high emigration rates, causing a shrinking workforce.
  2. Employment is increasing. Latvia’s rate of employment has improved over recent decades. For instance, the employment rate was 49 percent in 1991 and increased to 55.1 percent in 2017. This is relatively slow, but significant progress. The employment status of a Latvian citizen factors heavily into their aforementioned risk of poverty. Only 8.1 percent of employed people were at risk of poverty, whereas the risk is approximately 59.5 percent for unemployed people.
  3. GDP is low but growing. Latvia has the fourth-lowest GDP in all of the EU, falling below the average GDP per capita of 28,900 PPS for the EU in 2015, with an average GDP per capita of 18,600 PPS. Though low, this is part of an overall increase in GDP over the past decade, with a peak growth rate of 6 percent in just one year’s time.
  4. Income inequality. Though there is an improvement to Latvia’s GDP, the country still has significant income inequality as well. For example, the highest 10 percent of the country holds 26.1 percent of the income, whereas the lowest 10 percent has only 2.5 percent of the income.
  5. Low rates of violent crime. Latvia has a relatively moderate to low crime rate. For instance, the country has a very low homicide rate of 3.4 per 100,000 people. Most crimes committed are non-violent crimes of opportunity, such as burglaries, pick-pocketing and credit card fraud. The prison population per 100,000 people is 239.
  6. Education. Another aspect of living conditions in Latvia is its compulsory education system. As a result, the country has a high rate of enrollment. The gross enrollment ratio for primary school is 98 percent. Furthermore, 112 percent for secondary school (a rating of more than 100 percent indicates repeating students outside of the appropriate age group). The literacy rate of citizens ages 15 or older is 99.9 percent, which is on par with the EU’s average, Furthermore, all schools have access to the internet, ensuring a high-quality education.
  7. Health. Life expectancy in Latvia is 74.7 years, making it one of the shortest average life expectancies found in the EU. However, this has improved by about five years, from an average life expectancy of 69.1 in 1990. Latvia also has a relatively low infant mortality rate of 3.9 per 1,000 live births, down from 13.1 in 1990. Latvia has a universal health care system.
  8. Human development is high. The Human Development Index (HDI) is a quantitative measurement of factors such as life expectancy, standards of living and employment, measured by the U.N. The HDI for Latvia is 0.847, which ranks it at #41 out of 189 countries. This categorizes it as having very high human development, thus reflecting one aspect of good living conditions in Latvia. The HDI score is also a massive improvement over its record low of 0.667 in 1993.
  9. Latvians are optimistic. Eurofound surveys have demonstrated that life satisfaction in Latvia has increased from a metric of 5.6 in 2003 to 6.3 in 2016 (on a scale of 1-10). Happiness has increased to an average of 7 from 6.5. Additionally, 69 percent reported optimism about their future. Not only that, 77 percent reported optimism for the futures of their children or grandchildren. Comparatively, in 2003, 76 percent said that they found difficulty in making ends meet. However, that metric has decreased to 53 percent in 2016.
  10. Gender equality. Latvia ranks in 41 out of with a Gender Inequality Index (GII) of 0.196 as ranked by the UNDP. Women have close to the same secondary education statistics as men. For example, 55.2 percent of women are in the workforce, compared to 63.7 percent of men. In regard to parliament, women hold 16 percent of parliamentary seats. Though there is still room for improvement, this is significant progress from Latvia’s 1995 GII of 0.411.

Overall, these top 10 facts about living conditions in Latvia demonstrate that the country has improved significantly in various areas since the 1990s. Though Latvia still has areas that need additional attention and work, the country is on a consistently upward trend of progress and human development.

– Jade Follette
Photo: Flickr

 

Education in LatviaImprovements in education in Latvia are of the utmost importance, because children are the most impoverished group of Latvians. As of 2012, 23.4 percent of children under the age 17 were living below the poverty line, whereas only 18.8 percent of adults up to 64 years of age and 17.7 percent of Latvians 65 and older were below the poverty threshold.

With so many children living in poverty, receiving an education is the first step towards improving their situation. From 2008 to 2012, there was a decline from 26.3 percent to 23.4 percent of children living in poverty, perhaps due to primary and secondary education being free and mandatory for all native Latvians.

However, there would be a much greater decrease if discrimination was not as prominent within education in Latvia. Children of minorities are denied access to health and education facilities.

Romani and Russian speakers experience language barriers, as Latvian schools do not teach in these languages. Children of these ethnicities are falling into poverty, or remaining in poverty, which greatly affects the country’s overall economy. Russian speakers alone represent a third of Latvia’s population, greatly influencing the country’s poverty rate.

Fortunately, the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance has addressed the issue and promises that the Latvian educational system will provide equal access to education and jobs. They demanded that schools alter their curriculum to provide instruction in minority languages and cultures.

Even further, there is a presence of a separate but equal society in which Roma children must attend different classes than their peers, which reinforces the belief that they are not capable of sharing language and education with Latvian students. The Council of Europe’s Anti-Racism Commission is also fighting to end this separation and merge all ethnicities into the same class.

Seeing how Latvia’s population has experienced an increase in its poverty rate, from 19 percent in 2010 to 22.5 percent in 2014, it is vital that the country makes improvements. Providing equal access to both basic and higher education is an important step forward, one that European officials acknowledge. Once Latvia ends racism, education will allow all children to climb out of poverty.

Brianna White

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in LatviaOne of the smaller Baltic states, Latvia gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and ever since has been shifting to catch up to the rest of the economies in the EU. Although Latvia is one of the fastest growing economies in the EU, nearly one in three Latvians is at risk of severe poverty and nearly one in five suffer severe material deprivation. Additionally, the GDP per capita of Latvia is only $13,700 – in contrast, the United States’ GDP per capita for 2016 was over $52,000. Considering the close strategic ties between the U.S. and Latvia, this all begs the question of how to help people in Latvia who suffer from poverty.

With the aim of helping Latvia develop as a nation and stamp down its poverty rate, here are some ways to get involved and help the people of Latvia:

  1. In 2014, the U.S. provided Latvia with $67 million worth of assistance through an assortment of military programs run in the country. Writing to members of Congress in favor of continued support for Latvia can allow them to focus their attention and finances on their own economy.
  2. Similarly, the U.S. and Latvia are members of many of the same economic groups – such as the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and NATO. Urging your representatives in Congress to support these groups provides Latvia with access to the resources and assistance provided by them.
  3. Latvia is currently in the process of becoming a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – an international group that seeks to assist nations in improving their economies and the livelihoods of their citizens. Getting involved with the OECD and supporting their initiatives is a tangible way of helping make an impact in the lives of Latvians.
  4. Investing in and purchasing the goods and services of Latvian-based companies puts money directly into the Latvian economy, which is largely based on industries such as transport and telecommunications. For example, choose to fly Air Baltic next time you take a trip to Europe.
  5. Volunteer your time or donate to the American Latvian Association, which has been providing aid to Latvia since 1989.

Ultimately, the choice of how to help people in Latvia most effectively lies in the hands of the Latvian government, but urging U.S. representatives to consider ways to assist Latvia as well as volunteering your own time and money can assist the poor in Latvia in making life a little bit better for themselves.

Erik Halberg
Photo: Flickr

Latvia Poverty RateThe Latvian population has faced many struggles, ranging from political violence to the deepest recession in the world when the financial crisis hit in 2008. In 2013, 32.7 percent of the population in Latvia was at risk of poverty, and that number is only increasing as time goes on. The Latvia poverty rate is extremely high, and it is the third-poorest country in the European Union.

In 2013, the Latvian government developed a policy of turning “welfare into workfare.” This is the practice of welfare being given only for jobs, like road-sweeping. Unfortunately for the government, this resulted primarily in depopulation. While Latvia has had massive amounts of emigration for many years, since this action it saw negative 14,262 net migration. This means that it had far more emigration than immigration.

The highest demographic exiting the country was people of working age, between 15 and 61. This has become a major concern for the Latvian government. Its workforce has decreased massively but unemployment rates are still quite high, resulting in a very high poverty rate.

That being said, there are ways to reduce the Latvia poverty rate, but they will take quite a lot of work from the Latvian government. There are some policies that were enacted before 2010 to address poverty but they were not very effective. There is a minimum wage in Latvia which was updated in 2009 and serves as a very indirect measure for reducing social inequality. Additionally, families are able to apply for social support, so long as they can prove that the income of each family member does not exceed 50 percent of the minimum wage for three months.

The government has not put more measures or economic programs in place for protecting the working class or the unemployed, and this will have to change immediately in order to both encourage repopulation and reduce poverty. There is also a great need for more information collection in the population. Little is known about how current poverty measures are benefiting the Latvian population — if at all.

While current measures are somewhat helpful, Latvia really needs more legislation that will limit the number of people in poverty and put in place measures for improving their economic status. There are currently no policies relating to lifting citizens up out of poverty which is particularly important because the poverty prevention methods really aren’t working. Latvia has quite a way to go before it can consider itself poverty free, but the dedication of the Latvian government and the commitment of other members of the European Union to aid them is a good place to start.

Liyanga De Silva

Photo: Pixabay

Human Rights in LatviaLatvia – a former member of the USSR – is nestled in northeast Europe. It boasts a free market economy and has joined both the EU and NATO. However, with a long history of oppression of human rights, Latvia has struggled to acknowledge and enforce equal rights for all people. Stemming from violence suffered while under the Soviet Union, there are a few key concerns regarding the status of human rights in Latvia.

Latvia has a large number of stateless individuals – over 250,000 of the population. These people, many of whom are children, are not recognized as citizens of Latvia and do not enjoy many of the benefits that come with being a citizen. A lot of these stateless people are ethnic Russians who have difficulty becoming citizens of Latvia due to discrimination.

Discrimination against Russians carries over to many aspects of daily life. People who are not citizens of Latvia endure heavy restrictions in the professional world and are also limited regarding land ownership. Several people have been fired from positions due to possessing an unsatisfactory mastery of the Latvian language. Recently, the mayor of the capital of Latvia was fined for using Russian in a media post. This discriminatory behavior creates a barrier to achieving equal human rights in Latvia.

The U.N. has also raised concern about human rights in Latvia for the disabled. These concerns are specifically regarding the mentally disabled, and representatives for human rights have insisted the Latvian government prioritize the education of disabled children.

Latvia has the EU and the U.N. to hold them accountable for the preservation of human rights, and these organizations have certainly being doing so. While many issues create barriers to attaining the equal treatment of all people, Latvia continues to create reform to try to combat these issues – though there are definitely some areas still needing work. As long as the country is held accountable for its treatment of people, surely progress will be made.

Julia Mccartney

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in Latvia
Bordering the Baltic Sea in Eastern Europe, resting just between Lithuania and Estonia, lies the Republic of Latvia, a nation only slightly larger than West Virginia. Having only gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Latvia’s public health has struggled to remain of high quality. Here are some common diseases in Latvia:

  1. Ischemic Heart Disease
    Ischemic heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease, refers to problems in which the arteries become restricted, thus reducing oxygen and blood flow to the heart. Such conditions can lead to a heart attack. In Latvia, ischemic heart disease was the most common cause of death in 2015, and had been for the previous decade. Since 2005, however, the disease had fortunately decreased in prevalence by 6.7 percent.
  2. Cerebrovascular Disease
    Cerebrovascular disease refers to all disorders in which blood flow to the brain is affected, both permanently or temporarily. The disease can include carotid stenosis, intracranial stenosis and vertebral stenosis, stroke, vascular malformations and aneurysms. In Latvia, cerebrovascular disease was the second most common cause of death in 2015, and had been for the previous 10 years. However, since the previous decade, instances of the disease had gone down by 18.9 percent.
  3. Alzheimer’s Disease
    In 2015, prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease was recorded to be the third-most common cause of death, a bump up from being the fourth-most common cause of death it had been a decade prior. In fact, prevalence of death by Alzheimer’s disease had increased a whopping 35.5 percent since 2005. A progressive form of dementia, Alzheimer’s has no known cure, only treatment. Still, with proper care, patients can live for up to 20 years after their symptoms become noticeable.

As Alzheimer’s is the only major disease in Latvia that has actually been growing more common, the country ought to adopt an action plan which can address the disease through clear public health standards. Through such standards, the most common diseases in Latvia will surely become less common.

Shannon Golden

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Latvia
Formerly a part of the USSR, Latvia is a member of the EU for the past 13 years. The country is home to over two million people, and it is slightly larger than West Virginia. The recession of 2008 deeply affected the Latvian economy, and as a result, the country has a massive income gap. Additionally, as of 2013, Latvia gave less aid to the poor than any other members of the EU. These conditions leave ample room for the number of those living in poverty to increase, which makes hunger in Latvia an important issue.

Historically, Latvia lacks an adequate food supply. Children suffer most from hunger in Latvia, and malnutrition steadily weakened the population since the end of World War I.

As of 2014, almost 20 percent of Latvians were living under the poverty line. It is the third-poorest country in the EU. Of those in poverty, the average family lives on an average of 215 euros or less, not enough to feed the whole family. In 2012, 100,000 citizens had a monthly income of less than 65 euros.

While hunger in Latvia is still an issue, the country greatly improved in the past decade. Since 2000, Latvia decreased their Global Health Index rating by 59 percent. The Global Health Index gives countries a score from zero to 100 based on undernourishment, child mortality and other factors. The lower the score, the healthier the country is.

Many organizations contributed to the decrease in poverty and hunger in Latvia. The American Relief Administration worked to feed the hungry, especially children. Carelinks Ministry, a religious outreach organization, worked in Riga, Latvia, serving food to the poor, especially in the colder months. With people partnering to reduce hunger in Latvia, the country will continue to decrease their GHI rating.

Julia Mccartney

Photo: Flickr


As of right now, there are more than 65 million people in the world who have been forced to leave their homes. Humanity is facing its largest refugee crisis yet. There are many countries that are involved with this critical situation, and each responds to it in different ways. Some provide assistance to refugees and some neglect them. Here are 10 facts about refugees in Latvia to further one’s comprehension on this matter and how Latvia handles it:

  1. Latvia is currently building a fence along the Russian border to prevent people from entering the country illegally, ensuring that refugees only come in accordance with the law. The fence’s purpose is to protect the European Union borders. It should be complete by 2019.
  2. As a part of the European Commission’s refugee relocation plan, Latvia agreed to accept 531 refugees within two years. This plan is supposed to focus on accepting refugees who are mostly from Italy and Greece. However, 50 accepted refugees must be from third world countries. Thus far, Latvia has accepted 318 people.
  3. There have been multiple cases where refugees who arrive in Latvia tend to leave shortly after. According to the Red Cross, refugees leave due to the difficulty of finding a job there. Although there are supposedly many job offerings, refugees might have a hard time because of a language barrier and the challenge of becoming accustomed to a new culture. In September 2016, 21 out of 23 refugees that came to Latvia ended up leaving for Germany. A month later, it was confirmed that none of the 23 refugees remained in Latvia.
  4. As a result of many people being unhappy with the way Latvia regards its refugees, the “Our people” campaign was created. The purpose of the campaign is to serve as a reminder that, despite cultural differences, people of the world should support one another and come together. The “Our people” campaign promotes the acceptance of refugees who come to live in Latvia.
  5. There is one asylum-seeker center in Mucenieki. People stay there while waiting to find out if they have received refugee or alternative status. While they live there, they are given the opportunity to receive some education and the chance to learn Latvian.
  6. Migrants who arrive in Latvia typically wait three months to find out whether they have been given either refugee or alternative status.
  7. When one is given the status of a refugee, they are provided with a permanent residence permit. When one is given alternative status, they are provided with a residence permit that is valid for a year.
  8. The main difference between the status of a refugee and an alternative is that asylum seekers are mainly accepted as refugees because they fear persecution for their beliefs and race. Asylum seekers that receive alternative status are accepted because they were threatened with punishment and violence and are thus in dire need of protection.
  9. In 2016, there was a large controversy over a campaign introduced by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). With the tagline “We would do the same,” the campaign’s purpose was to bring attention to the fact that refugees need help and that in a situation like theirs, many would flee their homes. However, Latvia’s Defense Ministry found it to be offensive to the Latvian National Armed Forces because it suggested that Latvians wouldn’t fight for their country.
  10. Sixty-nine percent of Latvians stated in a 2015 public opinion survey that they did not like the idea of welcoming refugees from Northern Africa and Middle Eastern countries.

While these 10 facts about refugees in Latvia provide a better understanding of Latvia’s role in the refugee crisis, they do not represent the different roles that different countries are taking in this situation. The way Latvia treats its refugees does not depict the treatment of refugees throughout the entire world. With a multitude of organizations and people that want to help, refugees do have a global support system.

Raven Rentas

Photo: Flickr


The country of Latvia in Eastern Europe borders the Baltic Sea and Russia. The population of Latvia is just fewer than two million people, which is very small relative to most countries around the world. The life expectancy in Latvia is 74 years, which is above the global average of 71 years. The annual mortality rate is 754 per 100,000. Though it is small, the top diseases in Latvia mirror global trends.

When traveling to Latvia, it is recommended by the CDC to have all routine vaccinations up to date, as well as hepatitis A. There is the possibility of contaminated food and water in Latvia.

The top two diseases in Latvia are both cardiac-related, much like most of the world. The heart diseases are the only two on the list of the top diseases in Latvia that have stayed in their spot for the last 20 years. The numbers have been decreasing for both ischemic heart disease and stroke. In third place, cardiomyopathy is also heart-related and has been rising since last counted when it was in the ninth position.

An interesting development in Latvia over the last 20 years has been the rise of HIV/AIDS. It was not near the top in 1990 in position 83, but it has jumped to the sixth since then. This has encouraged a discussion of prevention and education efforts. Educating the public on the dangers and how to be safe can prevent cases and resulting fatalities.

The risk factors of many of the top diseases in Latvia include dietary choices, high blood pressure, smoking and alcohol use and physical inactivity.

Brendin Axtman

Photo: Flickr