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Languages of labor in Latvia - Labdien, hello and zdravstvuyte

Along with Latvian, Russian and English, companies are increasingly asking that potential employees know a Scandinavian language, but experts say that although the situation is improving, employer needs frequently exceed the abilities of potential employees, according to a Latvian Radio broadcast on February 12.

“The Latvian job market basically asks for three languages – Latvian, Russia and English. The next language – that's German. There are vacancies that ask for a Scandinavian language,” said CV-Online Latvia Recruitment Director Kaspars Kotāns.

He says the Russian language requirements are also changing, with many employees only being asked to speak it, not write. Meanwhile international companies are more interested in Scandinavian languages in addition to English. Many of the support centers service clients in Scandinavia, but potential employees are frequently not equipped with the necessary skills.

“One of the ways companies are solving this problem is by offering potential candidates organized language academies where people can learn one of these languages in six months,” said Kotāns.

Transcom Worldwide Latvia Human Resources Director Līga Millere said she would love to employ more locals, but she has also encountered a lack of Scandinavian language skills. “That's why we wish education institutions would consider the possibility of increasingly teaching these languages. As we know, in Latvia these languages are not only in demand by us, but also by our competitors and other types of companies,” said Millere.

“Mostly we see in job ads that a majority of employers require English. Only lately the English language skills are required at a higher level than before,” said i-Work Group Director Ilze Boitmane.

“Also in regards to the changes in the Labor Law, we're beginning to pay it attention. If Russian is not necessary, then we don't even put it in. Sometimes it's necessary at the basic knowledge level, so that one can maintain minimal contact. Minimal conversation. The importance of Russian in the job market is slightly lower than before,” continued Boitmane.

Due to the lack of language skills in the market, translation and language training company Skrivanek Baltic Director Vasilijs Ragačevičs said that both large international, as well as small local companies are choosing to offer employees language courses.

“It improves work quality, effectiveness, speed and confidence,” said Ragačevičs.

As Millere pointed out, this practice is used more with employees who already have a basic level for a foreign language. They can already work in that language, but need language courses to improve their skills, not to learn the basics.

As previously reported, in 2018 Saeima approved a bill amending the existing Labor Law, which says that employers will have no right to demand that their employees have to know a particular foreign language unless that is necessary in the employees' job.

The Welfare Ministry said that the current version of the Labor Law already ensured sufficient protection from various kinds of discrimination and the amendments proposed by National Alliance were essentially superfluous. National Alliance said that the objective of the amendments was to prevent linguistic discrimination against Latvians at work, as well as to foster repatriation.

It is commonplace in job advertisements for knowledge of both Latvian and Russian to be a desired requirement for candidates, so this is the area that the legislation has the most effect. The bill was passed in Saeima on November 1, 2018.

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