Census reveals population plunge, but greater proportion of Latvians

Latvia’s population plunged 13 percent during the first decade of this century and stood at less than 2.068 million last March, according to provisional results of the census announced Jan. 18. The census counted how many people were living in Latvia on March 1, 2011.

Meanwhile, the proportion of ethnic Latvians in the population rose to 62.1 percent, according to data released by the Central Statistical Bureau in Rīga. In the 1935 census, ethnic Latvians accounted for 75 percent of the population.

The loss of population is attributed to a low birth rate, meaning that not enough children are being born to replace persons who die, as well as to emigration. According to the census, 119,000 of the lost population is due to the birth rate, while emigration is responsible for 190,000.

The province of Latgale, in eastern Latvia, saw the greatest population decline—21.1 percent—followed by Vidzeme with a loss of 17.5 percent. However, the region around the capital city of Rīga saw a population increase of 3.2 percent.

All of Latvia’s major cities lost population, the census reveals. Daugavpils lost the most: 19.3 percent, or almost a fifth of its residents.

The greatest decrease in ethnic population has been among Russians. Almost 147,000 fewer ethnic Russians lived in Latvia in 2011 than in 2000, a decline of 20.8 percent. Ethnic Latvians decreased by about 86,500, or 6.3 percent.

However, some smaller ethnic groups have seen even more significant declines relative to their numbers. Belarussians, for example, saw their population decline by nearly 29,000 from 2000-2011, representing an almost 30 percent drop. The Ukrainian population dipped more than 28 percent to a total of 45,699.

The population of ethnic Jews, which now is just 6,416, dropped by more than 38 percent.

More than 170 different ethnic groups live in Latvia, according to the Central Statistical Bureau.

Other census findings highlighted by the statistical bureau include:

  • The proportion of men to women has decreased. Women now make up 54.2 percent of the population, while men make up 45.8 percent. The least amount of men are found in the Cēsis district, where they account for 44.9 percent of the population.
  • Latvia is trending older. The proportion of people age 62 or older is 21.8 percent, 3.5 points higher than in the 2000 census. Children to age 14 make up 14.1 percent, or 4 points lower.
  • Citizens now make up 83.8 percent of the population, up from 74.5 percent in 2000. Noncitizens number 290,660, accounting for 14.1 percent of the population. Foreigners living in Latvia account for 2.1 percent of the population.
  • Persons with higher education now make up 23 percent of those age 15 and older, compared to 13.9 percent in 2000.
  • A total of 57.5 percent of people age 15 or older are economically active, meaning they are part of the labor pool.
  • Latvia has 1.023 million housing units. Of those, 68.8 percent are apartment buildings, 28.9 are individual houses, 1 percent are semi-detached houses and 0.6 percent are row houses.

Census data were gathered from March 1 through June 10. Information about 30 percent of the population was gathered during the first 12 days of the census, when for the first time people could complete questionnaires online.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

One thought on “Census reveals population plunge, but greater proportion of Latvians

  1. Unfortunately, that is not the full story. Only 1.9 million were actually recorded in the census. Disappointed with the results, the Statistics Bureau then decided to “extrapolate” from other registers, inventing another almost 168 thousand residents to exceed the 2MM mark, which it was previously admitted was psychologically important. The argumentation was simple, not everyone was reached… This, might well be true, but: a) would have been equally true of all previous censuses. While the actual population may, then, be in doubt, the trend is more alarming than the doctored results will show’; b) the adjustment is equal to almost 9%. Some may have fallen through the cracks, but 9%?!; c) while it is true that some may have been missed, it is equally possible that some who have long since emigrated registered. The possibility to register via the internet in the opening days of the referendum would even have facilitated this, while lack of clarity over double taxation was well as access to cheaper services would have provided the motivation. The census was a chance for the government and parliament to appreciate the scope of what is happening and react proactively to address the causes and stem the flow. True to form, Latvian politicians have instead chosen to stick their heads in the sand and lie to their voters and themselves.

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