The government has continued taking certain steps to alleviate the financial pressure to families with children by introducing certain improvements in the social benefit system, tax incentives, also increasing the availability of child minding services, increasing the minimum wage, amending the social insurance system.
But there are still challenges ahead: to tackle high rates of poverty by reforming social assistance for better coverage, by improving benefit adequacy and strengthening activation measures for benefit recipients; and to reinforce the delivery mechanisms to effectively reduce child poverty.
In order to help parents to participate in the labour market the State Employment Agency (SEA) is offering different types of services that would enable them to re-enter the labour market, such as professional training, re-training and the development of skills etc.
In 2014, the female employment rate was 64.3%, which is considered to be a positive trend compared to the previous years.
Government has approved positive changes in the labour tax and personal income tax and raised the minimum wage. In addition allowance for dependents has been significantly increased from €113.83 to €165 and the basic tax allowance (per month) has been increased from €64.03 to €75 in 2014; in 2013 property tax relief for large families has been introduced and in 2012 tax relief for a large family’s private vehicle has been introduced.
In 2014 financial support for child care up to one and a half years of age was additionally increased. State guaranteed maintenance payment for a child has been increased. From 1 September 2014 state financed free school meals are provided for the 1st , 2nd and 3rd grade and the state earmarked subsidy has been increased. From 1 September 2015 free school meals are provided also for the 4th grade. The state has increased financial support for provision of teaching aids for all school children. From 1 October 2014 it is possible for a parent to receive support for child care and parents’ benefit at the same time. Parents are able to choose between two different payment schemes of parents’ benefit depending on the length and amount. Person may receive parental benefit and work at the same time.
Parents can choose length of parental benefit payment – up to one year of child age (in amount of 60% from social insurance contribution wage) or up to 1,5 years of child age (in amount of 43,75% from social insurance contribution wage). Parents can also receive parental benefit and work at the same time (in amount 30% from granted benefit). Simultaneously with parental benefit parents can also receive child care benefit of 171 EUR per month.
From 2015, no payment ceiling applies to sickness, maternity, paternity and unemployment benefits. It means that the benefit is paid according to the social insurance contributions.
From 2015 differentiated state family benefit has been reintroduced (11,38 EUR for the first child per month; 22,76 EUR for the second child per month; 34,2 EUR for the third child per month).
From 2015 state guarantee has also been reintroduced for family loans for the purchase or construction of a family housing.
In 2013 1.1% of GDP was allocated for social protection benefits, a small increase compared with the previous year. In 2013, 35.3% of children under 18 were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, the lowest rate since 2008.
Since the beginning of 2013 all local governments provide co-funding for children attending private kindergartens. The state is providing co-funding from the 1st of September, 2013. In 2014 and 2015 the financial support coming from state per child was up to €142 per month. In this way adding together the co-funding of the state and the co-funding paid by the local government the child will be able to attend kindergarten free of charge either private or public. As an alternative to that the parent may choose to apply for nanny’s services, which is also co-funded by the state.
In 2013 23% of children less than three years of age received formal child care services, the same share as in 2012. At the same time 79% from age three to minimum compulsory school age received formal child care services, a similar share as in the previous year.
From 2013, assistance services in local governments are available for children aged 5 to 18 with disability. Steadily the school infrastructure (elevators, classrooms, floors, doors etc.) is being adjusted for the needs of pupils with physical disorders. Also the work of specialists is being improved so that they get more involved in the support of the child with special needs.
To facilitate access to medical services for families and children, the Ministry of Health has established new policies on the development of the human resources who are working in the health care system and on the financing of the health care system. New policies are being introduced to improve the care for pregnant women and newborns, infertility treatment and cross-sector cooperation in the reproductive health sector.
The government is determined to introduce a gradual transition from institutional care to family type care (in the time period from 2015 to 2020) for children who are left without parental care and at the same time improve preventive and support measures for the biological families.
The foundation “Centrs Dardedze” has established National Expert Council in order to improve the protection of children who have become victims or witnesses of sexual abuse. The National Expert Council comprises of representatives of civil society, practitioners, local and state representatives. One of the main assignments of the Council is to assess the possibilities to introduce good practices, promote child friendly interdisciplinary and interinstitutional approach. Icelandic good practice example Children’s Home/Barnahus is being considered on how to ensure that the child’s best interests are being taken into account in the investigation process.
The State Inspectorate for Protection of Children’s Rights is implementing movement „Friendly School”. The aim of „Friendly School” is to improve cooperation between pupils, teachers, parents and schools’ administration. Another objective of „Friendly School” is to improve regular preventive work to prevent violence in school. In order to make school friendlier to pupils and personnel inspectorate has developed a number of criteria. Involvement of schools in „Friendly School” movement is voluntary. Inspectorate organizes events for pupils and teachers about themes related to the objectives of the “Friendly School” movement, in which active involvement of pupils is promoted. For example children are invited to take part in essays, drawing and movie competitions, evaluation of teachers’ work etc. Similar movement called “Friendly House” is implemented by inspectorate in out-of-family care institutions. Significant attention is being paid to the child online safety in cooperation with Latvian Internet Association and Safer Internet Centre.
In recent years several positive measures have been introduced to strengthen the ability of families to be able to take care of themselves and children such as: reform of the child protection system; provision of quality child minding services for every child in need; improvement of the financial and other support services to protect families with children from poverty and social exclusion. Now, it is necessary to implement a regular follow-up of the recent political initiatives to make sure the introduced mechanisms are effective and, where necessary, to make appropriate amendments.
The information in the country profile was last updated in January 2016.
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. In June 2015 the Latvian Ministry of Welfare in cooperation with Sustainability Index granted the Family Friendly Company Status to eleven companies.
The public limited company Latvenergo AS (Latvia’s biggest energy power supply enterprise engaged in the generation of electricity and thermal energy and the electricity trade, as well as the provision of IT and telecommunication services) from 2013 is granting support for large families (with more than three children) and socially vulnerable families with children. In 2013 the social support was offered in two alternative formats. Firstly, socially vulnerable families with children were granted an option to receive cards for settling electricity payments to the amount of 76.40 EUR from municipal social services in cities and regions. Secondly, a tariff compensation program existed, which provided large families with an option to pay for 3600 kWh per year at the lower tariff. Therefore each family could receive support at value up to 84.24 EUR. In 2014 Latvenergo AS introduces a new social support campaign for large families, offering possibility to receive gift card for settling electricity payment to the amount of 84.24 EUR. From 1 January 2015 as the electric energy market opened the large families as well as insecure and poor persons (protected users) can receive monthly support for disbursement on electric energy if they have chosen Electrum as their merchant of electricity. Large families can pay lower price for the first 300 kWh per month.