The Latvian government has scrapped a two-year-old program to draw young ethnic Latvians from abroad to work during the summer in the homeland.
The Cabinet of Ministers signed off May 26 on a Ministry of Children, Family and Integration Affairs decision ending the program because of government reorganization and because of what the country’s economic crisis has done to the labor market.
“Taking into account the complicated situation in the labor market, it is not possible to offer positions that fit the interests of youth from abroad, nor to find employers who would guarantee pay for the work,” the ministry’s state secretary, Iveta Zalpētere, wrote in a document supporting the decision.
The program, for youths ages 18-24, was started in 2007 as a pilot project after a proposal by former Prime Minister Aigars Kalvītis. Seven ethnic Latvian youths from Canada, Russia, Sweden and the United States worked in Latvia that summer in positions related to their interests. Their travel and living costs were paid for by the government. The pilot project had hoped to draw 20 youths, but the government later acknowledged that it was late in publicizing the summer opportunity.
The government offered the program again in 2008, but without helping with travel and living costs. The State Employment Agency was to find positions for the youths, while the Ministry of Education was to aid in finding living quarters.
Although plans to continue the program this year were discussed, Latvia’s economic turmoil—including rising unemployment—has now forced the government to reconsider.
Zalpētere also noted that government belt-tightening—including the loss of hundreds of state employees—would make it difficult to organize a quality summer program. The Latvian youth from abroad could only be offered low-skilled jobs, Zalpētere wrote, but that would be counter to what the program has done before.
Continuing the program could also not sit well with people in Latvia, she suggested.
“Because fundamental changes have also affected the labor market and there is a high unemployment rate in the country,” Zalpētere wrote, “it is possible that many job seekers and society as a whole could react sharply toward the program’s implementation.”
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