RIGA - Only around a third of Latvians who have moved abroad for better-paid jobs are expected to return to their homeland, according to Integration Minister Oskars Kastens.
In an interview with Latvian business newspaper Dienas Bizness Aug. 29, Kastens said: "It depends on many factors. First of all, it depends on the economic situation in the country. Experience of other European countries shows that about one third of emigrants return, and, I believe, that is the number we can count on. If 60,000 people have gone abroad, then we might focus on 20,000 Latvians to come back - that is our objective," he said.
Kastens said that one of the main reasons for the labor force exodus is low wages at home, and the issue can be tackled by raising pay and living standards, particularly in the regions. "Of course, regional reform is not a magic wand to solve problems. But if we manage to see through reforms and arrange infrastructure to increase people's mobility in the country, in my opinion, it will improve the situation," said Kastens.
Speaking about the possibility of reorganizing the tax system to provide extra incentives for business, Kastens said that his ministry currently has no proposals to reduce taxes. "At present, when the country is moving towards a zero-deficit budget, it would be wrong to speak against the course taken by the finance ministry. But it does not mean we are not going to support the issue in the future," he said.
Kastens added that it would do no harm to study Ireland's experience and introduce "tax vacations" for new companies.
The minister also said that it is important to keep in touch with Latvians working abroad and regularly inform them about job opportunities in Latvia.
Kastens admitted that Latvia will have to import foreign workers itself if the flow of emigrants is not stopped.
According to official figures in the main destination countries for Latvian labor, Ireland has around 26,000 registered Latvian workers and the UK around 35,000. Those figures do not include any illegal workers, or workers in other countries, suggesting that Kastens' estimate of the total number of Latvians currently working abroad may be low.