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Latvia

Latvia

Summary

Latvia declared independence from the USSR in 1991, and since then it has become a member of the EU, NATO, and the eurozone. Similar to other Baltic states, major economic activities include fishing and forestry. Since gaining independence, there have been problems reducing poverty and integrating the ethnic Russian population.1 1 http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-17522134

Demographics

Nationality
Latvian
Population
2,178,443 (July 2013 est.)
Ethnic Groups
Languages
Religions

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Environment
Family
Human Rights
Education
Poverty
Religion
Clean Water
Economy
Government
Health
Children
Animals

Environment

Industrial carbon monoxide and ineffective waste facilities contribute heavily to air and water pollution. The water supply is plagued by pollution from agricultural chemicals and industrial waste.1 Unlike many countries on the European continent, climate change mitigation measures are not a high priority for the Latvian government, and it does not have a recognized piece of legislation that deals with climate change.2

Family

Despite some progress, Latvia still struggles with gender inequality and violence against women.1 Government legislation has lagged behind in defining and providing victims with protection in domestic, family and spousal violence cases. The vast majority of domestic abuse goes unreported due to social norms.2

Human Rights

Latvia in the past has been the hunting ground for human trafficking victims with thousands being exploited each year. Even with recent policy progress, there is still not sufficient jail time given to traffickers, and there is not a reliable way law enforcement officials can identify trafficked persons.1 There are also a large number of ethnic Russians living in Latvia who are denied citizenship, which limits their personal and political freedoms.2

Education

Post-secondary study is not funded by the government like it is in many other European countries, and university studies are expensive and minimally subsidized. The greatest hindrance towards education reform is the lack of funding commitment from the government.1

Poverty

Almost half of the structures and houses in Latvia have not had substantial work done on them for over 25 years which has caused inadequate living conditions, according to the UN. 1 There are high rates of poverty, but joining the eurozone and steadily increasing minimum wages have alleviated those at risk of and in severe poverty.2 25% of the population is living below the poverty line.3

Religion

Over 30% of the population is Lutheran, 50% is Catholic, and almost 20% are Russian Orthodox. Latvia does not have any official state-declared religions, but the government does have some protestant traditions.1 Although there are laws that protect Latvian’s freedom of religion, there have been several recorded instances of anti-Semitic demonstrations. There is a growing number of people who do not identify as religious, and many simply identify with a faith because it is a cultural norm.2

Clean Water

Latvia has generally good water distribution and the majority of citizens have access to clean water. Around 99% of the total population has access to clean water, and 95% of rural citizens have access.1

Economy

Due to Latvia’s geographical size, the economy is small. It is dependent on processed foods, processed wood products, textiles, processed metals, pharmaceuticals, railroad cars, synthetic fibers, and electronics.1 In the post-Soviet era, the economy successfully transitioned to a market economy through increased foreign investments and trade. A major challenge for the government is decreasing the unemployment rate in Latvia, which stands near 9%. Despite that, the nation is known for its expanding economy and encouraging entrepreneurs.2

Government

Latvia’s government is a parliamentary representative democratic republic, with the prime minister as head of government and president as head of state. The president’s role is mainly ceremonial, and the prime minister holds a more powerful role.1 Comparatively, the government is less corrupt than it was during the Soviet era. There have been some constitutional amendments to bolster anti-corruption laws and enforcement policies. Despite these advancements, the public still views politicians as having a severe lack of accountability.2

Health

The life expectancy of the average Latvian is 72 years, and there are numerous public health concerns plaguing the nation. Some of he biggest health risks are alcohol abuse, HIV, and a high suicide rate.1 As a result of decades of subpar care, the Ministry of Health has designated health care reform as a legislative priority. The government’s goal is to create employment opportunities, as well as to increase investment into the health service sector.2

Children

Being born into poverty with poor health services is the primary concern for children in Latvia, where the infant mortality rate is 8%. Roma and Russian children suffer from discrimination due to their lower societal social status, and there are not adequate legal protections to prevent this abuse. In addition, because there is poor transportation infrastructure in rural areas, school attendance is lower than in neighboring countries.1 As one of the poorest countries in the EU, children are disproportionately affected by poverty than other sectors of society.2

Animals

40% of the land in Latvia is comprised of forests, which produce a great environment for lynx, bears, otters, and deer to live.1 However, there are increasing amounts of invasive species threatening wildlife in Latvia. These creatures brought in through USSR testing or global trade are weakening native populations of fish and mammals.2

Latvia

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