Firefighter staffing levels comparatively high in Latvia

Fires raging across Europe have devastated thousands of hectares of land in France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Greece, putting firefighters in the affected countries to the test. In Latvia too, firefighters and rescue crews have been hard pressed, with drownings also taking a toll.

But according to Eurostat data published August 9, at least staffing levels are comparatively high here compared to the rest of the European Union.

2021, about 365 thousand people were employed as professional firefighters in the EU, representing 0.2% of total EU employment.

Firefighters in EU

Estonia, Cyprus, Romania, and Slovakia (all around 0.4% of total employment) registered the highest share of firefighters in their respective workforces, with Latvia just behind with more than 0.3% of the workforce and 2,813 firefighters in all.

However, there was the caveat that Eurostat said the data from Latvia had "low reliability".

In 2020, general government expenditure in the 27 EU Member States on "fire protection services" amounted to €32.9 billion, a 6.4% increase from 2019, when expenditure was around €30.9 billion. The share in general government total expenditure was 0.5%. Overall, in the EU, government expenditure on fire-protection services remained stable at around 0.4 – 0.5% of total expenditure since the beginning of the time series in 2001.

Expenditure on fire protection in EU

The share of government expenditure on fire protection as a ratio of total expenditure varies among the Member States. In 2020, Denmark reported the lowest share of expenditure on fire protection services in total expenditure at 0.1%, followed by Iceland with 0.2% and Belgium, Malta, Austria, Portugal and Slovenia with 0.3% of their general government total expenditure. In contrast, Romania had the highest share of expenditure on fire protection services with 0.8%, followed by Bulgaria, Czechia, Germany, Estonia, Greece, Lithuania and Luxembourg with 0.6%. In Latvia the figure was 0.4%.

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