Report, conference study Irish question

Low wages is not the only reason thousands of Latvian residents have left their homeland in recent years in search of work in Ireland, a new study finds, President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga’s press office has announced.

The study, titled “Brīva Latvijas darbaspēka kustība. Īrijas piemērs” (The Free Flow of Latvian Labor: The Case of Ireland) and organized by the Strategic Analysis Commission (Stratēģiskās analīzes komisija), will be presented Jan. 18 in Rīga.

Researchers traveled to Ireland at the end of last year to interview Latvians living in Ireland, Irish employers and Irish laborers. The researchers also spoke to Latvian residents who have returned to the homeland after working in Ireland, as well as employment recruiters in Latvia and Latvian and Irish politicians.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced a Jan. 20 conference, “Vai Latvija iet Īrijas pēdās: darbaspēka migrācija” (Is Latvia Following in Ireland’s Footsteps: Labor Migration), that will examine whether Ireland’s experience might be mirrored by Latvia.

The conference, set in the Hotel Bergs in downtown Rīga, will bring together Latvian Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks, Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern and other officials. Pabriks noted that Irish workers now are returning to their homeland.

An official head count of how many Latvian residents have migrated to Ireland is hard to come by. One official in the Latvian embassy in Dublin told Latvians Online the number is about 15,000 to 20,000, but other estimates place the number at twice that many. Some have even suggested the number may be as high as 100,000.

The Strategic Analysis Commission’s study, the press office says, looks at a number of factors that explain labor migration to Ireland, as well as dispels stereotypes about Latvian residents working abroad.

The issue of Latvian workers in Ireland saw increased media attention in Latvia late last year. In Ireland, too, Latvian workers drew attention after it was learned a ferry company was replacing native workers with Latvians.

The Strategic Analysis Commission was formed in April 2004 at the initiative of Vīķe-Freiberga and former Prime Minister Indulis Emsis.

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

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