9th Conference European Sociological Association

RS04 Europe and Immigration

Migrant workers in Latvia: positive and negative aspects in population attitudes

Population attitudes towards foreigners coming to Latvia for the purposes of work significantly differ. The complicated historical development - deportations and artificial immigration, caused by forced industrialisation of Latvia since the beginning of 1950s had a fundamental effect on the ethnic situation of Latvia.
At the end of 2007 and beginning of 2008, the Social Alternative Institute conducted a research "Impact of Migration on Ethnic Relations in Latvia". The overall objective of the research is to promote democratic ethnic policy and balanced ethnic relations in Latvia under the circumstances of immigration. The research explains the views of various socio-demographic groups living in Latvia in respect of the potential migration of foreign workers to Latvia and their integration in society.
Such research methods as analysis of documents and previous researches, expert focus group discussions and population survey through direct interviews were used during the research process.
According to the survey results, residents of Latvia lack information about immigration of workforce. Up to the end of 2008, several economic sectors needed foreign labour. In population attitudes, the main negative consequences of labour import are related to belief that the inflow of foreign workers could threaten the Latvian ethnic identity and local population employment opportunities as well as would increase crime related risks.
The majority of respondents who had strictly negative views regarding arrival of foreign workers to Latvia supported the rigorous policy that was implemented at that time in Latvia in respect of labour immigration and restricted employers wishing to attract foreign workers. Now, after the rapid increase in the unemployment rate since the end of 2008, the proportion of residents who support such a policy would probably be higher.
At present, policy makers should fully understand the consequences of employment of foreign workers. Researches and thorough analysis of situation would allow prognosticating how arrival and stay of foreign workers in Latvia will affect not only the growth of particular companies or sectors, but also the country's economic, political and social development.