On 11 April 2019, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a presentation of the latest studies of the Centre for Diaspora and Migration Research of the University of Latvia (LU DMPC).
The event was opened by Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica, the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, emphasising the importance of research-based policies: "Being aware of the increasing importance of diaspora issues, the Centre for Diaspora and Migration Research was established with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2014. During these years, a number of studies have been carried out on the theme of diaspora. With the adoption of the Diaspora Law, we can safely say that this is one of the privileged areas in which policies are based on academic studies. One of the studies focuses more closely on areas where the potential of diaspora should be identified more precisely and enables policy makers to develop more concrete steps to identify and exploit it."
The study “Return circumstances and conditions” was more widely reported by the LU DMPC's leading researchers Baiba Bela and Mihails Hazans. The study focused on the needs of different groups of remigrants, the experience of inclusion and future plans, as well as recommendations to support return migration and the integration of remigrants. In particular, the experience of youth and senior remigration, the challenges and their solutions are addressed. The study found that, in Latvia, or rather after a year or in a distant future, less than half of the remigrants of both sexes in the 18-24 and 40-54 age groups, but more than half of the remigrants in the 25-39 and 55+ age groups, are likely to be seen. With the exception of 55+ year old seniors, at least around 40% of remigrants in all age and sex groups could not say whether they had returned to Latvia altogether. Remigrants face a fall in the standard of living - money is less and it is harder to earn it.
The time spent in the last country of residence of return migrants varies in a wide range - it can be concluded that it is never too early or too late to offer countrymen abroad a good opportunity in Latvia. However, in order to keep remigrants in Latvia, it is important to provide them with a variety of support before and after returns. For example, many do not clearly understand the tax system and issues relating to the transfer of social security contributions. State institutions should respond to the vague questions in a way that can be understood by people, not in a complicated legal language that is typical of Cabinet of Ministers’ regulations and laws. Support for finding a suitable job is very important.
The study also shows that the experience of emigration makes it easier to assess the good that Latvia has. For example, while a person is regarded as an immigrant in foreign countries, Latvia has the opportunity to be among his or her own and to work not only for his or her well-being, but to feel his or her job as a contribution to better Latvia.
The study “Investment of the Diaspora in Latvia and opportunities for identifying it” was presented by Inta Mieriņa, the head of the LU DMPC, and the lead researcher Baiba Bela. In the world and in recent years Latvia is also increasingly focused on the possibilities of maintaining links and cooperation with diaspora, as well as on the contribution of diaspora to its country of origin. The study provides the most comprehensive view of the investment of the diaspora in Latvia, highlighting the diverse areas of the diaspora contribution, as well as highlighting the opportunities and challenges for evaluating the diaspora contribution.
It is traditionally common to focus on foreign transfers of money to Latvia. The amount of such transfers was estimated to be EUR 818 million in 2017. However, tourism, development and innovation of the diaspora also contribute significantly to the Latvian economy, as well as the diaspora's support for export development and involvement in the mentoring of young businessmen. Over a million euro per year, the diaspora devotes to charity in Latvia, both as patrons and contributors.
Not least is the intangible investment of the diaspora in Latvia. People living abroad bring new ideas, values and practices in Latvia, identified in science by the concept of "social transfers". Latvia gains a lot from professional and personal skills acquired by specialists abroad. Higher demands from government and employers can create pressure to build better management, better communication with society, as well as better quality and higher-paid jobs in Latvia. In addition, people living abroad are also part of the Latvian civil society, for example, they are actively voting on different legislative initiatives in portal manabalss.lv. The contribution of the diaspora to shaping and promoting the image of the country worldwide is also extremely important.
The researchers highlight the importance of the involvement and investment of the diaspora for Latvia's development and call for cooperation that provides mutual benefits. Research has shown that many people living abroad would be willing to help and engage more than they do now. In order to better develop the potential for cooperation, further efforts must be made to create a favourable environment for cooperation with the diaspora, in terms of legal framework, availability of resources, attitudes, etc. It is necessary to strengthen the understanding that each citizen of Latvia is valuable and can contribute to Latvia's development in the globalised world.
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