SDG 1 (No poverty) implementation in Latvia 2018
Reducing poverty is one of the most important goals of Latvia and the whole of Europe. Latvia 2030 calls for the reduction of the at risk of poverty rate to 16 % by 2030 (Eurostat 2016 – 21.8%), while the National Reform Programme of Latvia for the Implementation of the Europe 2020 Strategy targets decreasing the at risk of poverty and/or in low intensity work households to 21 % by 2020 (in 2016 - 23.4 %, 2010 - 22.1%).
In the medium term, Latvia has prioritised reducing the poverty rate for employed persons and families with children, while continuing to improve conditions for older persons and per- sons with disabilities. The share of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion (Eurostat data) fell by 10 % between 2010 (38.2%) and 2016 (28.2%), while the population has decreased by about 9% during the same period. Economic growth and decent work play a crucial role in reducing poverty.
During the economic crisis of 2008-2011, a social safety net was put in place to meet basic welfare, education, employment, transport and health needs. Several measures were retained after the crisis, such as medical co-payments exemptions for low-income persons.
Since the economic recovery began (after the crisis that led to high unemployment and emigration), the employment rate has increased (in 2017 for 20-64 olds: 72.7% for women, 77.0% for men). This is partly due to government programmes to support employability, especially of the long-term unemployed youth, those 50 years and older, prison inmates and those who have completed their sentences. These programmes are being constantly improved.
Support to families with children has been significantly increased between 2014 and 2018 through family benefits during the child-care period. This includes differentiated family benefits, depending on the number of children, additional allowances and tax exemptions. Local governments provide free meals in schools and kindergartens, and there are also discounts for public transport. Persons with disabilities, orphans etc. receive free public transport and families with three and more children are entitled to a 25% discount for public transporation costs. This support has contributed to the reduction in the risk of poverty for families in which two adults raise three or more children (19.8 % in 2016), however, the risk of poverty remains high (34.3 %) in single-parent families.
Local Governments Working to Improve Lives
1. Local government social services and social assistance benefits are particularly important for people at risk of poverty.
2. Many local governments have voluntarily set a higher guaranteed minimum income level beyond that mandated by the national government to provide for their citizens’ basic needs.
3. To reduce the poverty risk for families with children, especially single-parent families, many local governments provide free lunches for children at school, kindergarten or set significant school meal discounts, supplementing the basic free lunch funding for children at school subsidised by the national government.
4. Local governments provide additional support for housing, health care, etc. to elderly people with low incomes living alone, one of the most socially vulnerable groups.
Limited availability of public financial resources is one of the biggest challenges in addressing poverty. Although social protection is one of Latvia’s largest national budget items, Latvia is among those EU and OECD member states that channel a relatively small proportion of the GDP to social protection.
Source of data: pkc.gov.lv
Author: Markuss Janis Svageris