Ex­pert: Latvia suf­fers from cat­a­strophic labour force deficit

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In the last three years, the num­ber of for­eign stu­dents in Latvia has grown 80%. For­eign­ers study in uni­ver­si­ties in Riga and other re­gions. Their con­tri­bu­tion to Latvia’s state econ­omy is es­ti­mated around EUR 150 mil­lion. Turība Uni­ver­sity’s De­vel­op­ment and In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion deputy rec­tor Imants Bergs em­pha­sizes that the con­tri­bu­tion of for­eign stu­dents for the state bud­get would be con­sid­er­ably larger if they were al­lowed to work more than 20 hours a week, as it is per­mit­ted now.

Per­mit­ted to work 20 hours a week For­eign stu­dents in Latvia are al­lowed to work 20 hours a week. This is reg­u­lated by Cabi­net Re­quire­ments on Em­ploy­ment of For­eign­ers.

The ex­pert men­tions that Latvia’s gov­ern­ment has made a lot of progress in the mat­ter re­gard­ing em­ploy­ment of for­eign stu­dents. For ex­am­ple, un­like some other Euro­pean coun­tries, for­eign stu­dents in Latvia are au­to­mat­i­cally pro­vided with a work per­mit. Nev­er­the­less, there is still a lot of work to do in this field.

Most stu­dents are able to work a lot more

Bergs com­ments: «Stu­dents travel to our coun­try to study and re­ceive a lit­tle bit of work ex­pe­ri­ence, not work and re­ceive a lit­tle bit of ed­u­ca­tion. This is why there is a 20-hour limit on the amount of work stu­dents are al­lowed to do. There is also the con­cern for their grades, as they may suf­fer if a stu­dent spends too much time work­ing and not enough time study­ing. Nev­er­the­less, I be­lieve a large num­ber of stu­dents are able to work 40 hours a week with­out it im­pact­ing their studies. The EU di­rec­tive pro­vides for a uni­fied or­der in ac­cor­dance with which for­eign stu­dents from third coun­tries are able to re­quest res­i­dence per­mit for up to a year af­ter grad­u­at­ing.»

He also men­tions that every mem­ber state may ap­ply this mea­sure dif­fer­ently. As a re­sult – Latvia al­ready has reg­u­la­tions that state how grad­u­ates from Master’s and Doc­tor’s de­gree study pro­grammes be­come el­i­gi­ble for six-month res­i­dence per­mits. «I be­lieve that such an op­por­tu­nity should be made avail­able for Bach­e­lor’s de­gree grad­u­ates,» said Bergs.

Liq­ui­dat­ing ab­surd sit­u­a­tions with work per­mits

The deputy rec­tor also em­pha­sizes that it would be best to fix a cer­tain ab­surd sit­u­a­tion: «The re­quire­ments I’ve men­tioned al­low grad­u­ates from Master’s pro­grammes to work full time (40 hours a week), but if the stu­dent de­cides to con­tin­ues studies to re­ceive a Doc­tor’s de­gree, they once again have to deal with the 20-hour re­stric­tion on work. This is def­i­nitely bad for their po­ten­tial em­ploy­ers as well.»

He adds: «I be­lieve stu­dents who are start­ing their sec­ond year should be al­lowed to work 40 hours a week. This should not be the case in the first year – stu­dents need time to adapt to the study process and or­der of things.»

60% of com­pa­nies lack em­ploy­ees

Bergs says that Latvia suf­fers from a cat­a­strophic deficit of labour force – ap­prox­i­mately 60% of com­pa­nies work­ing in Latvia have prob­lems with find­ing skilled work­ers. «I would pro­pose con­sid­er­ing the op­tion to pro­vide all grad­u­ates of Lat­vian uni­ver­si­ties with work per­mits. It would greatly help out with com­pet­i­tive­ness – both for ex­ports of higher ed­u­ca­tion and de­vel­op­ment of the na­tional econ­omy. While young­sters are busy study­ing, there is no need for them to set­tle any pa­per­work to be pro­vided with a work per­mit – they can just go to a po­ten­tial em­ploy­ers ant start work­ing,» said Bergs. Af­ter grad­u­a­tion it turns out the em­ployer has to start fill­ing the nec­es­sary pa­per­work, which costs money and time [up to three months]. «This puts em­ploy­ers at a cross­roads – go through with this process or em­ploy a dif­fer­ent stu­dent. Such a sit­u­a­tion is ben­e­fi­cial to nei­ther the stu­dent nor their po­ten­tial em­ployer, be­cause the lat­ter has al­ready in­vested funds in train­ing their po­ten­tial em­ployee. Such a state of af­fairs only serves to alien­ate po­ten­tial tax­pay­ers,» says the deputy rec­tor.

Alien­at­ing tax­pay­ers

The spe­cial­ist says that busi­ness­men are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing deficit of labour force. This ap­plies to qual­i­fied work­ers and un­qual­i­fied ones. At the same time, he adds that this sit­u­a­tion may cause the coun­try’s so­cial sys­tem to col­lapse in the fu­ture – if the num­ber of tax­pay­ers sharply de­clines and the por­tion of so­ci­ety fi­nanced from the so­cial bud­get re­mains the same or in­creases.

Pan­therMe­dia/SCANPIX

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