In 2019 Latvia saw the lowest birthrate in ten years. A total of 18,589 people were born, which is 4% less than the previous year. Due to the low birthrate other Latgale districts also experienced a similarly dramatic decline in residents.
“In general people are leaving Latvia because there is no work. Even if there is something work-wise, then the wage is low and it’s not possible to survive,” say countryside residents.
Daugavpils is one of the largest districts in the country with 19 parishes. Last year 118 people were born in the district, but 408 residents died, which makes for a 1:3.5 ratio of births to deaths. However this ratio doesn’t include migration.
“That provides the largest loss. Every year a small parish disappears in our district. This trend is more rapid here in Latgale, and for us the loss is greater,” said District Council Chair Arvīds Kucins.
A similar situation can be seen in the smaller Aglona district. Last year 12 people were born, but 39 died there, meaning their population of 3,470 fell by 100 people.
“Every day I drive 40 kilometers to work and back. I won’t live in the countryside for long either, I won’t be able to develop a farm by myself. That’s why the most realistic option is that I’ll leave,” said Aglona district resident Viktorija.
The countryside suffers resident losses not only from people emigrating abroad, but also from people moving to Rīga or other larger cities in the region, such as Daugavpils. This means a lack of taxpayers, workers, consumers, and results in an empty economy along with an ageing population.
“Every normal new family thinks about how to survive, not live in the countryside. And young people are beginning to think about whether it’s even worth starting a family and having children. And people are dying even younger, because healthcare has decreased,” said Daugavpils District Council Social Services Director Anna Jegorova.
According to demography researchers the first step is helping poor families, because that’s the main factor demotivating potential parents. The total population of Latvia decreases by around 1%, or 10, 000 people every year according to data.