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Migration process in Latvia: A Brief History and Driving Forces

By Michele Ruffa, LAPAS intern



The aim of this paper is to describe the migration processes in Latvia, focusing particularly on changes since Latvia’s accession to the European Union (2004). In recent years, Latvia has established itself as one of the top two countries with the most intensive emigration among EU/EFTA member states. Emigration from Latvia is an interesting subject not only because of its intensity. Latvia’s population is aging steadily. Between 2000 and 2015 the percentage share of children and teenagers shrank, while the shares of those aged 40–64 and especially 65+ grew. The working-age population in Latvia is shrinking faster than in any OECD country except Japan (OECD 2016). In the twentieth century, Latvia saw periods of economically motivated immigration, as well as mass deportations during periods of occupation and episodes of ethnically and politically driven emigration. There was also mass immigration of labour and military personnel which was centrally planned by the Soviet regime and, in addition, immigration of their families while at the start of the twenty-first century (covering the period 2000–2016) Latvia has been a country of labour emigration. This paper starts with a brief history of the main population flows from and to Latvia in the twentieth century before describing the scale and dynamics of emigration in the early twenty-first century, as well as its effect on the size and demographic potential of the population.

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