Many Latvian parents work long hours, take on several jobs and spend little time with their families. The provision of formal childcare falls short of parents’ needs and the fertility rate is low at 1.4 children per woman in 2011. Moreover, amidst the current economic crisis, Latvia is cutting its state budget and is decreasing benefits for families. However, the Latvian government is taking measures to reduce child poverty and improve childcare provision and encourage family-friendly measures in companies.
In 2011 Latvia’s female employment rate was 60.8% compared to 58.5% in the EU according to Eurostat data. The weekly working hours of Latvian women amounted to 37.9 hours, which was only one and a half hours less than that of men and significantly more than the average weekly working time of women in the EU (33.6 hours/week). In addition, in 2011 Latvian mothers of children under six demonstrated an employment rate above the EU average – 63.9% compared to 58.9% respectively.
Few Latvians work part-time. In 2011 female and male part-time employment rates were at 10.8 and 7.5% respectively, well below the EU averages of 32.1% and 9%. According to an EU report , part-time work is often accepted as the main job when a full-time job is not available. When people are given a choice between a full-time and a part-time job, they usually chose the former. The report also shows that, to supplement their income, many people in Latvia take on a second job. Work-life balance is particularly difficult to achieve for people who are forced to take several jobs or who work long hours to reach a basic wage, which particularly affects those who are poorly paid or qualified.
In 2011, 24.8% of Latvian children aged 0-17 were at risk of poverty. Those most at risk of poverty were children living in families with three or more children (38.8%) and in single-parent families (41.3% – those a woman is usually the main carer).
Latvia is among the EU countries that spend the least on family benefits: 1.7 of GDP in 2009, compared to 2.3% for the EU as a whole. Latvia’s Gross National Product (GNP) fell by 18% in the first quarter of 2009. With the economy collapsing, the Latvian government had to considerably curb its expenditure. The main financial benefits aimed at supporting families have been seriously affected by the budget cuts of July 2009.
Due to economic stabilisation, including the implementation of budget stabilisation measures, GDP increased by 10.1% in 2011, compared with 2010 at current prices.
Maternity leave lasts for 112 calendar days, with the possibility of extension due to a further pregnancy, birth complications, or multiple births. During the period of maternity leave, maternity benefit is paid at 80% of the recipient’s average wage on which social insurance contributions are paid. Paternity benefit is paid for ten days to fathers at 80% of their income provided they go on leave within two months of the child’s birth.
Parental benefit granted to employed parents caring for a child younger than one year old is paid at 70% of the average monthly wage on which social insurance contribution is paid but no less than 70% of twice the amount of the state social security benefit (63 LTV/around €90 per month in 2011).
On a temporary basis— until 31 December 2014— a parent will receive full benefits (maternity, paternity and parental benefit) provided that the daily level of the benefits is lower than or equal to 11.51 LVL (€16.37). If the amount of the benefits exceeds this amount, the parent will get 11.51 LVL per day plus 50% of the amount by which the benefits exceed that level.
Following on from a government report on the evaluation of social security norms from 2013 23.02 LVL (€32.75) will be the new daily level on which the level of benefits is based.
The parents of children born up to 4 April 2010 received a one-off childbirth allowance (birth grant) of 296 LVL (around €420) with additional payments of 100 LVL(€140) for the first child, 150 LVL (€215) for the second child and 200 LVL (€290) for the third and each additional child. From July 2009, additional payments for the birth grant were abolished and for all children born after 4 April 2010 birth grants were paid at the amount of 296 LVL (around €420).
The family state benefit—provided for each child in the family from the day of birth until the age of 15 years (or 20 years, if the child continues to study)—was reduced to the flat amount of 8 LVL (€11.50) per month per child, regardless of the number of children in a family (until 31 December 2012). Until July 2009 the benefit ranged from 8 LVL (around €11.50) per month for the first child in family to 14.40 LVL (around €20.71) for the fourth and further children. In addition, the benefit is now paid only until the child reaches the age of 19 years (if she/he continues to study) and for children born after 3 May 2010 the benefit is only paid from the child’s first birthday. The government report referred to above states that the flat-rate payment will continue to 2014.
On 1 January 2015, however, , the amount of the benefit will again vary depending on the number of children in a family and benefit will double for the second and treble for the third and subsequent children in the family.
Every employee in Latvia has a right to parental leave of up to 18 months for each child, to be used before the child turns eight years old. Breastfeeding breaks at work for mothers of children under 18 months of age must be granted during working time. Employees with three or more children aged 16 or less or with a disabled child are entitled to three extra days of paid leave per year.
The Latvian government is taking action to improve levels of childcare provision. There are now around 978 educational institutions that provide pre-school education (874 educational institutions are run by local authorities, 104are private institutions). From January 2004 to June 2009, 44 child development and play centres have been set up by local authorities with financial support provided by the Ministry for Children and Family Affairs. The purpose of these centres is to ensure that parents have the option of leaving a child who does not attend a pre-school educational institution for a few hours under supervision.
Furthermore, with the financial support of the state, 26 family support and crisis centres have been set up by local authorities for children, parents, pregnant women and young mothers in need of specialised help. Additionally, in 2007, 60 childminders were trained and a public database developed for an au pair service in the city of Liepāja.
One of the priorities of the Council of Demographic Affairs is to solve the problem of insufficient places in educational institutions for pre-school aged children. Currently there are 11,800 pre-school aged children on the waiting list for places in educational institutions. A working group has been set up to address the problem. Local authorities are considering individual options as well, such as additional financial support for families to pay for a nanny.
According to Eurostat data, 16% of children under three in Latvia had access to formal childcare in 2010, compared to the EU average of 28%. The corresponding figures for three to six year olds were 64% for Latvia, compared to 84% for the EU.
The information in the country profile was last updated in November 2012.
In 2006, the Latvian government introduced the ‘Family-friendly Company Status’ scheme in order to draw attention to companies which implement policies and services that are child- and family-friendly. The idea is to encourage other companies to implement similar measures. The status is granted for one year.
In September 2011 the Latvian Ministry of Welfare granted the Family Friendly Company Status to 12 companies. In May 2012 the Latvian Ministry of Welfare granted the Family Friendly Company Status to 11 companies and in September another 2 companies.