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Life in Transition: Latvia

Key findings (%, weighted)

Latvia Average Transition region Average Western Europe
Satisfied with life 38 43 72
Trust in others 27 34 42
Perceive less corruption than four years ago 8 21 9
Concerned about climate change 47 54 54
Support both market economy and democracy 14 34 42
Households affected by the crisis 56 49 31

Impact of the crisis

  • Almost 60 per cent of respondents report that their households have suffered during the economic crisis. While this is relatively comparable with the regional average, it underlines the negative impact on the livelihoods of many Latvians. Moreover, less than 10 per cent of respondents think that the economic and political climate has improved since 2006.

Life satisfaction

  • Life satisfaction has declined in Latvia over the last four years, ranking the country 16th in this respect among the transition countries. Life satisfaction levels have dropped almost uniformly across age and income brackets. However, certain age ranges (people aged 18-59) as well as middle- and upper-income groups have experienced more significant decreases.

    While the level of optimism has dropped since 2006, it remains comparable to the transition region average and is well above the average for the western European comparator countries included in the survey. Optimism about the future of the younger generation has fallen by 20 percentage points and has almost uniformly decreased among different age and income groups.

Attitudes towards democracy and market economy

  • Only about 15 per cent of respondents prefer a combination of democracy and a market economy. The economic crisis has had a negative impact on people’s attitudes towards democracy and market economics, with the result that about 20 per cent of respondents think that, under certain circumstances, a combination of authoritarian government and a planned economy would be acceptable. As in most of the transition region, respondents prefer to live in a country with robust economic growth but fewer political liberties. However, they differ in their assessments of their country’s socio-economic model: 50 per cent consider that they live in a country with full political liberties and weak economic growth, but almost all of the other half think that there are few liberties and weak growth.

    The economic crisis has had an impact on the overall belief in the basic democratic institutions. Almost 90 per cent of Latvians think that they have full freedom to travel. However, most respondents do not believe that their country has got the basic democratic institutions. For example, only 20 per cent consider that there is a strong political opposition or that the court system can protect individual rights against abuse by the state.

Generalised and institutional trust

  • Generalised trust has fallen since 2006 in Latvia. About one-quarter of respondents think that people can be trusted, which is significantly lower than the transition region average. While the level of trust has dropped, especially among the older generation and people in the lower-income bracket, it has increased markedly among people in the upper-income group. The level of trust towards those from different religions and nationalities is moderate, but Latvians tend to be wary of people whom they meet for the first time.

    Trust in public institutions is relatively higher than generalised trust, although it varies across institutions. Trust in the presidency, parliament and political parties (which was low to begin with) has fallen further, while trust in banks and financial institutions has fallen by as many as 30 percentage points.

Corruption perception

  • The level of perceived corruption is low and has been falling.

    Less than 5 per cent of respondents report making unofficial payments when dealing with the traffic police, civil courts, public education authorities or when applying for unemployment benefits. As in the rest of the transition region, corruption in the public health sector is endemic, although the incidence of unofficial payments has decreased since 2006.

Priorities for government spending

  • Respondents in Latvia put a priority on extra government spending on education and health care. Most would prefer extra government spending on health care well above levels sought in most western European comparators. In addition, spending on education, pensions and helping the poor is also favoured by a significant percentage of the population; 84 per cent of respondents think that the gap between rich and poor should be reduced.

Full report

  • The Life in Transition Survey provides vivid evidence of precisely how lives have been affected by the global economic crisis and its aftermath.

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