The rapid rise in unemployment furthers both short-term and long-term emigration
In the first half of 2009 the emigration of Latvian residents to Great Britain reached 8.3 thousand, increasing more than twofold within a year. Emigration to crisis-ridden Ireland was 3.6 thousand in the first 11 months of 2009 - 3% more year-on-year. Among the new EU member states, Latvia has the steepest increase in emigration to these countries. The total number of immigrants in Great Britain and Ireland has decreased this year.
Such conclusions follow from the latest data on the number of registrations with the social security systems in Great Britain and Ireland. This statistics records the number of immigrants who register for work or social benefits but does not record returning migrants; e.g., if a person goes to Ireland to work every summer, he or she is registered only the first year: short-term (less than one year) migration is not distinguished from long-term one.
These data indicate a trend similar to the one that emerges from Central Statistics Department data on long-term migration. In the first ten months of 2009, the number of long-term emigrants was 6.3 thousand, which is 18% more year-on-year; moreover the steepest rise took place in the last few months, reaching a ten-year peak (data on previous years are not available). For several years now the number of emigrants has exceeded that of immigrants in Latvia, except the second half of 2007 when a rapid adjustment of incomes to Western European levels and a drop in unemployment took place and there was a lack of labour force and incomes were expected to rise even further.
In 2009, the significant rise in unemployment, which, according to Eurostat assessment has been the steepest in the EU, was the main factor encouraging emigration. The drying up of construction work was the factor that, to a large degree, determined the steepest rise - in other countries with substantial drops in real estate prices and halting construction - the other two Baltic countries, Spain, and Ireland - the rise in unemployment was also more rapid than the EU average.
To curb emigration at a time of economic recession, increased productivity is necessary: better equipped work stations, professional training, more effective organization of labour, which would help to avoid both cutting salaries and increasing the income gap with Western Europe as well as renew confidence in Latvia and the decisions adopted by its government so as to revive the flow of investment and change the mood of the society. The effect of raising productivity on the economy is increased demand for labour and greater remuneration: low productivity does not encourage employment.
Although a resumed increase of GDP over the previous quarter and decreasing unemployment can be expected in the second half of 2010, it will find no immediate reflection in the emigration statistics, for they usually follow the growth cycle of the economy and changes in employment.