RIGA - Latvia has only a few years to accelerate its birth rate and prevent the nation's extinction, demographer Ilmars Mezs said in an interview with the LNT television this morning.
If the birth rate does not increase significantly during the next three to five years, the situation will become critical, said Mezs. He explained that after this period, the number of women in fertile age will decrease and the nation will have to increase its birth rate to "African levels" to prevent the nation's extinction.
Mezs emphasized that the situation can be solved by lessening the risk of poverty for families with children. Unfortunately, the government and the Welfare Ministry have other priorities, said the demographer.
To increase the birth rate, Mezs proposes to raise the monthly untaxed minimum for families with children by 50 percent, introduce state-guaranteed mortgages to young families and improve access to kindergartens.
The demographer criticizes Latvia's bureaucracy, explaining that Latvian families can receive compensation for their medical and educational expenses, however, the administrative costs of the process are excessive and amount to 6 million lats (8.5 million euros), compared to 9 million lats that these families receive in compensation.
Mezs admitted that the current government has done more in terms of demography than the previous ones. However, it is still not enough and Latvia continues to allot the smallest amount of funds for demographic needs in the EU. A year ago, Mezs was predicting that only 300,000 Latvians would be living in Latvia by 2100. This morning, he was ready to upgrade his forecast by 3 percent, but this would hardly improve the situation much.