Executive Search, Headhunting. Latvia

Discussions about headhunting (executive search) experience, best paractices and other useful ideas. Author is based in Latvia. Experience covering Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Finland.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Workforce Immigration - Latvia: overview.

There is much publicity to a problem of workforce immigration in Latvia at the moment.

Since boarders were opened to UK in May 2004 (when Latvia joined EU) approx. 60,000 people have left abroad (and that’s only official statistics) and some industry professionals claim that the real number is over 100,000. And that’s like 4% of the total population of Latvia (which is 2.3 million). And the worst thing about it is that it’s 100,000 workers who left. So it’s like 7% out of 1.5 million inhabitants in the working age.

And it’s worth mentioning that immigration started even before the boarders were opened in May 2004. Starting form year 2000 many people took a big risk and left to work illegally to USA, UK and Ireland. They’ve made a big buck, came back and then the word-of-mouth did its thing. People quickly realized that working and living abroad is not hard and it pays well.

Meanwhile the economy is growing. In some regions of the country there is basically no unemployment (in the capital Riga it might even be below natural unemployment), however some regions like Latgale (the eastern part of Latvia, closer to Russian boarder) is still lagging behind and the unemployment level is in the range of 10-20%. Salaries are rocketing, the average annual increase level is approx. 26% (I quote what I believe to be the true percentage, not what is claimed by the government, which believes that the increase is even bigger not taking into consideration legalization of income makes a part of statistical increase).

Government is spending a lot of money on researching the causes and effects of the workforce immigration in Latvia. They have come up with a “plan of returning the people who left”. The main points in the plan are:

  • Monitoring of the situation (tracking the number of immigrants and people who are coming back)
  • Establish several Public and private partnerships to develop the regions
  • Make working environment better
  • Communication with immigrants, fuel positive feelings toward Latvia
  • Education of society in Latvia, stimulation of positive thinking, patriotism
  • Diminishing technical and financial barriers that are preventing immigrants form having close ties with Latvia.

It was not easy for me to translate these points into English; moreover I find it difficult to comprehend the meaning of this even in Latvian. It seams to me that the government group which was working on the project were too reluctant to get out of their ivory tower and do some real work.

I don’t really get their idea; how can these things solve the “problem”? Monitoring at least would give them some more facts to base their further research on but I don’t like the idea of spending my and other tax payers’ money on futile exercise of “making the working environment better”, because I don’t think that the government can or should influence the mind-set of business owners and I don’t think that spending money on positive PR to fuel patriotism and keep closer ties with the immigrants would really be anything more than just that – PR.

How can one possibly get down to the root of the THIS problem if he doesn’t even go and talk to the people who leave abroad or talk to the people who are just about to leave? How can they analyze the situation making assumptions based on statistics and not backed by real facts? How can they make assumptions about what will bring these people home if they didn’t event invest their time into talking to the immigrants or would be immigrants to discover their real motives, they real concerns? Or why not talk to the people who provide the services to the immigrants, like some of the “recruitment” companies in the market? I believe they would have a few useful things to tell.

So it seems that this is yet another example of what you get if you base your work on fuzzy assumptions. ASSUME and you make an ASS out of U and ME.

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