THEY WON’T GO: Andris Vilks says Latvians won’t be leaving in droves to the newly opened German and Austrian labor markets.
RIGA - Latvia will need immigrants in order to successfully develop and stabilize the country’s labor market, Finance Minister Andris Vilks (Unity) said in an interview on the LNT morning program ‘900 sekundes’ on May 2, reports news agency LETA. Vilks pointed out that Latvia must worry about its labor force leaving the country, and added that the process will continue for some time. The minister believes that those Eastern European countries that successfully recover from the economic crisis will be less affected by this problem. There will not be a mass emigration of the Latvian labor force to Germany, he also promised.
Vilks believes that the issue of immigrants will be on the government’s agenda soon, since Latvian residents will not be willing to work low-paid jobs.
The minister was evasive regarding whether wages in Latvia will ever be the same as in other European countries. Wages differ across Europe. There will be sectors where wages will be close to the European level, but it will not happen anytime soon, predicted Vilks.
Last week the finance minister emphasized that the opening of German and Austrian labor markets to workers from Eastern European Union member states would not mean an “avalanche of migrants” from Latvia. “There will be those who leave, but it won’t be in such a volume and for such a long time as when they left for Britain and Ireland,” he noted.
“I don’t believe that tens of thousands of people will leave,” he said.
Germany and Austria opened up their labor markets on Sunday for citizens of Latvia and seven other countries that joined the EU in 2004. Berlin and Vienna were the last remaining holdouts in the bloc. In contrast, Britain, Ireland and Sweden dropped restrictions in 2004.
No official statistics are available for the number of Latvian migrants who have left since 2004, but most experts agree that it could be in the tens of thousands. The results of Latvia’s ongoing census - the last was in 2000 - are expected to reveal the true extent of emigration, which has been seen as having a major social impact here.
Despite Britain and Ireland’s slumps, Latvians have not headed home in droves.
Latvia is currently emerging from the world’s deepest recession, which struck after its once-booming economy went off the rails in 2008, and is currently locked in a biting austerity drive.