Brain drain threatens to increase

  • 2010-10-06
  • From wire reports

RIGA - With the opening up of Germany’s employment market, Latvia could be set to lose more highly-qualified professionals and businesspeople, says Latvian Employers’ Confederation (LDDK) Director General Elina Egle, reports Germany will open its labor market to citizens of the newer European Union member states in May 2011.
Strong trade unions and public pressure led the German government to protect the local workforce by delaying implementation of the respective EU directive for the maximum possible term.

Egle indicated that many countries protect their labor markets by limiting the issuing of work permits, as Germany has done until now. These countries usually manage these limits in order to follow a strategic employment policy, for example, by only issuing work permits to immigrants whose professions are in demand within the country. With this, countries are able to choose specialists with specific skills necessary for their economic priorities and labor market requirements.

 “With the opening of Germany’s employment market, there is high risk of losing economically-active citizens. However, those who wanted to leave [Latvia] to work abroad have already done so. Despite the fact that this is also a chance for less-qualified professionals to move to Germany, the greatest concern is that highly-qualified professionals and businessmen could leave the country. In Germany, businesspeople are offered various instruments of support for starting new companies, financial resources are available, and the social security system offers a wider range of social benefits and health care services. Our German language skills are also an advantage, as German is taught at most Latvian schools and higher education institutions,” said the LDDK general director.

Egle notes that Latvia does not have a migration policy to guide the state’s long-term approach to immigration, emigration, employment, demographics and citizenship, as up to now most parties in the Saeima have avoided raising this issue.

“In Latvia, the migration process is moving in the other direction. At a time when people are moving abroad in large numbers in search of employment, the flow of people coming in is minimal. The worsening of the economic situation has reduced the workloads of businesses, and with this, from 2008 to 2009, the number of issued employment permits fell by 98 percent in the construction industry, by 53 percent in the transport industry, and by 42 percent in manufacturing,” highlights Egle.

“Among the unemployed in Latvia, there is a growing tendency towards structural unemployment, which is characterized by the decreasing of a person’s skills with the passing of time. This can lead to a situation where a high level of unemployment exists alongside a lack of qualified workers. For this reason, it is important to create opportunities for unemployed people to become re-qualified and integrate quickly back into the labor market, and also to create mobility in the labor market, giving employers greater opportunities for bringing in foreign specialists where necessary,” believes Egle.