Living Conditions in Latvia

Latvia 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