Latvia leads EU on women researchers but R&D sector still small

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Latvia continues to have a very small Research and Development (R&D) sector, according to Eurostat data published December 6, though there are some signs of very modest growth.

The number of researchers in the EU has increased in recent years: there were 2 million researchers (in full-time equivalents (FTE)) employed in the EU in 2021, which marked an increase of 627 000 when compared with 2011.

The number of researchers (FTE) more than doubled in Poland and Sweden between 2011 and 2021, totaling 135 700 and 100 100 respectively last year. Relatively high growth rates were also recorded in Hungary (88 %), Greece and Belgium (both 79 %). The only EU Member State that registered the opposite tendency was Luxembourg, where the number of researchers in FTE fell by 22 % between 2011 and 2021.

In Latvia the number of researchers rose from 3,904 in 2012 to 4,526 in 2021 (provisional figure). It had fallen as low as 3,152 in 2016.

For comparison, in 2021 Estonia had 5,370 researchers (provisional) and Lithuania had 11,017.


Number of researchers in EU trend
Number of researchers in EU trend

An analysis of R&D personnel by sector in 2021 shows that in the EU there was a high concentration of researchers in the business enterprise sector (56.3 %) and the higher education sector (31.9 %), while 11.0 % of the total number of researchers were working in the government sector.

The relative importance of the different sectors varied considerably across the EU Member States. A majority of researchers working in Latvia (60.2 %), Slovakia (54.5 %), Lithuania (53.8 %), Portugal and Ireland (both 51.4 %), Croatia (51.1 %), Malta (51.0 %) and Greece (50.4 %) were employed within the higher education sector.

An analysis by sex shows that men accounted for approximately two-thirds (67.1 %) of the EU's workforce of researchers in 2019 (expressed in head count). Women accounted for just over half of the total number of researchers in 2019 only in one country: Latvia (where their share was just about a little over half with 50.6 %).

The share of women in the total number of researchers was close to parity in Lithuania, Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria, all above 45 % (see Figure 3). The gender gap was the largest in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Czechia where women were less than 30 % of all researchers.

Researchers by sex
Researchers by sex


R&D personnel in all sectors together accounted for more than 2.0 % of the total employment in Belgium, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Austria in 2021, compared with an EU average of 1.6 %. The share of R&D personnel in the total employment ranged from 0.4 % in Romania and 0.6 % in Cyprus to 1.9 % in the Netherlands and Germany.

Latvia comes near the bottom of the list with less than 1% of total employment coming from R&D.

Among non-EU member countries, the number of researchers in China (excluding Hong Kong) reached 2.28 million in 2020. During the period 2011-2020, the number of researchers in Turkey more than doubled. South Korea also recorded a rapid increase in the number of researchers (up overall by 55.0 %). The rapid growth was also noted in China, up overall by almost three-quarters (73.1 %). In the United States the growth rate was 26.5 % (2019 data). The number of researchers rose by 5.1 % in Japan between 2011 and 2020.

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