Emigration data fresh cause for concern

Data released Thursday by the Central Statistical Bureau (CSB) show that the population of Latvia dropped by 14,300 or 0.7% of the total population during 2013.

That means the rate of population decline is picking up after a brief respite in 2012 when the population figures due to international long-term migration decreased by 11,900 or by 0.6%.

According to the CSB, from 2000 to 2013, 259,000 people emigrated from Latvia and have not returned.

At the beginning of 2014 there were 2,001,468 people permanently living in Latvia, which is 22,400 thousand fewer than in 2013.

The only crumb of good news in the figures came with the fact that emigration itself declined from 25,200 in 2012 to 22,600 in 2013, but because immigration also fell from 13,300 to 8,300, the overall trend was still a decline in Latvia's demographic position.

The largest share of emigrants - 82.8% were of working age, with 23% of that number young people aged 15 -24.

The overwhelming majority of emigrants went to other EU countries.

Even before joining the European Union in 2004, emigration has been a huge problem for Latvia, with most estimates agreeing that more than one in ten of the population has packed bags and left.

Despite various government initiatives, little impact has been made so far in attempts to reverse the trend. 

Added to recent data on Latvia's high death rates and low birth rates, the country's demographic challenge will remain high on the next government's 'to do' list.

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