Employers propose reduced red tape around guest workers' arrival

The Latvian labor market is open to citizens outside the European Union but a lot of red tape is in the way. LSM is continuing its three-part series on problems and solutions to attracting foreign workforce.

Part 1 of the story series is available here.

"Latvia historically has never had enough workforce. Not during [President Kārlis] Ulmanis' time [1930s], not during Soviet times," said Latvian Employers' Confederation (LDDK) president Andris Bite.

In his opinion, Latvia should not spread the view that it only wants highly skilled workforce to arrive. "We don't have to be afraid of foreign janitors. It's an immoral thought. Latvian should aim higher – become IT experts – but someone has to clean the floors too," said Bite.

"A human is a resource, and the whole Western world is fighting for it. Germany has special state recruitment companies that have set up offices in Ukraine and recruit workforce to Germany. And we have to fight for the resource, too," said Bite.

The LDDK president said that the public often confuses two processes – immigration and bringing in workforce. Another myth is the so-called cheap workforce. "No such term. Nowhere in the world is there cheap workforce – no third-country citizen comes here to work for a salary smaller than the Latvian average. These are lies spread by the opponents of the idea or people who are not knowledgeable in these issues."

The LDDK has come up with three proposals to ease the process of attracting workforce to Latvia. The first is to relax the requirement for third countries, while still maintaining tough conditions. LDDK proposes reducing red tape for work permit issuance: "For example, bringing in workers who can be taught on the spot. They are required, for instance, education as a fish processing specialist. They don't have it, and that leads to fake documents, fake diplomas and so on," said Bite. 

"Employers can train the employees. No employer will keep a worker who cannot do the job at the required level."

Currently, document formation in Latvia takes up to three months. For example, in Poland it can be done over two days. The slow system leads to the fact that some guest workers come to Latvia through Polish job-finding companies. "This means part of the tax money goes to Poland. [..] It is a deliberately warped system. I am sorry that around 700-800 thousand euros go into the Polish budget because we don't want to change the rules." 

The second proposal by LDDK is that guest workers must not receive less than the average salary int he industry. 

The final major proposal is to limit the time of residence.

"We offer not to completely open up the labor market by letting them just come here – no place for them to stay, no specific employer. We do it like this – they come to a specific employer and the employer is responsible for the person to work here and not disappear," said Bite.

"It would be six, nine, or twelve months, and then they go home for two or three months," said Bite.

Currently there is a lack of workforce in nearly all industries, starting with auxiliary workers and ending with IT experts.

Data produced by the State Employment Agency (NVA) at the request of LSM.lv for the previous three years show that the number of long-standing vacancies is increasing annually. In the middle of the summer of 2021, there were 4,062 long-standing vacancies (unfilled for three or more months) or 20.1% of all vacancies, and this year 10,118 or 41.3% of the total number of vacancies. In addition, employees could not be found for at least half a year and longer in 4.6% of cases in 2021, but this year already 19.6% of the total number of jobs were vacant for more than six months.

The largest number of jobs is available in the construction and real estate sector, as well as manufacturing, agriculture, ICT, services, catering and food, healthcare and social care, public administration, and energy.


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