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Latvia: Education and Women’s Rights

Latvia is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe, which is bordered to the north by Estonia and to the south Lithuania. Latvia is the size of the state of West Virginia with a population of 2.3 million people, with 49% living in urban areas, 38% living in rural areas and the last 13% living in intermediate areas. Latvia has a republic political system and the lives of those living are struggling to make ends meet. Although Latvia is struggling with their depopulating state there are still many who claim Latvia as their home. Many battles are faced, many lives are lost, but through it all Latvia is still standing. Many people have faced inequalities daily, discrimination, while others suffer and have suffered by living poor lifestyles within and around the poverty line. Through it all Latvia is still standing and slowly gaining back their economic efficiency.
The age and sex distribution is very clear that women live longer than men and there are way more women in Latvia than men as well. Looking up the ratio of women to men in Latvia, I found a chart that has exactly what I was looking for. It is a chart from 2010 that has the number of women compared to the number of men by age. The age starts from 0-4 years old and goes all the way up to 80+. With this graph I noticed that there are more men in between the ages 15-29. I was a little shocked to see that there are more men than women in their early teenage to mid adulthood lives. The reason I think that it is like that is because there were more boys being born than girls in that year, but the chart still indicates that there are still more women in the older ages than men.
Latvia Population Pyramid for 2010
Age and sex distribution for the year 2010: Minorities are people who are the least out of the entire population. According to Daina Stukuls who wrote an article called Body of the Nation: Mothering, Prostitution, and Women's Place in Post-communist Latvia, in 1997, 72% of Latvian population had citizenship, but 37% of the 72% were Russians who migrated to Latvia, making Russians the largest minority group. Next is Belarusians who makes up 3.9%, Ukrainians 2.6% of the population, Poles 2.5%, and lastly Lithuanians who makes up the last 1.4%. Latvia is also home to dozens of much smaller ethnic groups, including Moldovans, Azeris, Chuvash and Georgians and Livs (Livonians). In Latvia there is a high rate of ethnic intermarriage as well. With the numerous intermarriages Latvia is becoming more and more diverse as a state.
Latvia is an agricultural state where they rely heavily on their exported goods and services. Their export significantly contributes to their GDP. The main buyers are Russia, Lithuania, Estonia, Germany, Sweden, and Poland. Their state has cattle, dairy foods, cereals, potatoes, sugar beets and timber which they ship to others in exchange for fuel, equipment, fertilizers, and many other goods and services. From 1994 to 1998 there was a general decrease in the production of meat products. The most dramatic decline in livestock was in beef production and the least dramatic was in poultry. Milk production was down slightly while egg production increased. Eggs, being a replenish able product, are a more economic form of protein. Production of cereals and potatoes decreased, but sugar beets doubled. Forest products, such as paper and timber, also added to the economy through export. Even though agriculture declined in percentage of GDP in Latvia, it still accounted for 16 percent of the labor force in 2000.
Latvia has been receiving a lot of help from World Bank which they joined in 1992. Even with the help of the WB later on in history, Latvia still needed help. That all changed when they faced recession, dropping their GDP from 10% to -4.6% in 2008. On 23 December 2008 the IMF approved a 27-month Stand-By Arrangement for Latvia to support the country's efforts to stabilize the economy. The IMF package was part of a coordinated international effort which loaned Latvia €7.5 billion ($15.4 billion) — equivalent to almost one-third of Latvia's GDP. In November of 2009, in consultation with the IMF and the European Union tabled a budget in Parliament designed to cut the country's 2010 budget deficit and thereby meet the demands of foreign lenders. The IMF/EU Program successfully concluded in December 2011.
The estimated Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Latvia in 2011 expressed in dollars at the official exchange rate was $27.4 billion, but using purchasing power parity for the conversion it was $34.6 billion. The estimated growth rate of real GDP in 2011 was about 4 percent, up from a negative 0.3 percent in 2010 and a negative 18 percent in 2009. The unemployment rate of Latvia 1.2 million labor force was still 13 percent in 2011 but this substantially better than the 18 percent unemployment rate in 2010.The government of Latvia in 2011 took in $9.7 billion in revenue (35.3 percent of GDP) but spent $10.8 billion. The deficit of 4 percent compared with GDP is of concern because Latvia wants to join the European Monetary Union. Latvia has also been a member of the European Union and NATO since 2004. When they joined EU they were quickly the one of the fasted growing counties since 2006, until the recession.
Policy transfer, according to D. Dolowitz (1998), is “the occurrence and processes involved in the development of programs, policies, institutions, etc., within one political and social system, which are based upon the ideas, institutions, programs, and policies, emanating from other political and/or social systems.” Latvia is a country based upon social policy transfer, which is when the country changed a lot of their social policies to better themselves. The new system was built because the old system was supported entirely by those in the workplace and many didn’t see that as being fair and humane. There were many people who were apart of the policy transfer, over 150,000 people moved and lived across seas. They were brining recognition to Latvian independence. Living abroad made it easier for the people of Latvia to benefit from policy transfer. Those who lived abroad in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, U. K., and Sweden kept in close contact with the new political elite within Latvia. One hundred representatives are elected by all citizens at least eighteen years of age, on the basis of proportional representation, for a period of three years. The Saeima elects a board, consisting of a chairman, two deputies, and two secretaries. The chairman or a deputy acts as speaker of the legislature. By secret ballot, the Saeima also elects the president, who must be at least forty years of age and have an absolute majority of votes. The president then appoints the prime minister, who nominates the other cabinet ministers. The entire Cabinet of Ministers must resign if the Saeima votes to express no confidence in the prime minister.
The Saeima has ten permanent committees with a total of 100 positions, so every deputy may sit on one committee. There are five other committees with a total of thirty-four positions. Committee chairmen, elected by committee members, often belong to minority parties not represented in the Saeima's ruling coalition. Draft laws for consideration by the Saeima may be submitted by its committees, by no fewer than five representatives, by the Cabinet of Ministers, by the president, or, in rare instances, by one-tenth of all citizens eligible to vote.
The president is elected for a period of three years and may not serve for more than two consecutive terms. As head of state and head of the armed forces, the president implements the Saeima's decisions regarding the ratification of international treaties; appoints Latvia's representatives to foreign states and receives representatives of foreign states in Latvia; may declare war, in accordance with the Saeima's decisions; and appoints a commander in chief in time of war. The president has the right to convene extraordinary meetings of the Cabinet of Ministers, to return draft laws to the Saeima for reconsideration, and to propose the dissolution of the Saeima. Once they came together and started to get the policy in effect, Janis Ritenis was one of those who lived abroad in Australia became The Minister of Welfare and brought many ideas to the table from his previous living arrangements in Australia. Although the people of Latvia elected Janis to be the Minister of Welfare, when he brought his idea to the table they were rejected because he was too radical, according to Feliciana Rajevska.
In 1995 they elected a new Minister of Welfare who was very liberal. Andris Berzin who brought to the table a liberal approach to social reform with no pension was accepted; therefore the socialist approach to social reform with pensions was then rejected. After all was done, the idea was to make it the responsibility of the citizens for social security and not the states anymore. Latvia had been trying to figure out what they wanted to do with their social policy. They piggy backed off many other countries to bring forth the many ideas like their independence, the election of a Minister of Welfare, and the idea to make people more independent.
Education and Children’s Rights After Latvia claimed its independence they also decided to adapt the European school system. This started with forming the ‘Education Law’ (“Primary”), or ‘Law on Education’ (Strausa) in 1991. The article “Primary Education in Latvia” states that this law “sets the main principles and goals of education.” This law brought compulsory and optional subjects to the upper school levels, and also brought the provision of autonomy to institutions of higher education and created opportunities to establish private schools. A final goal as stated in “Latvia: Higher Education” was to “introduce a Western-type structure of degrees and qualifications” This law also states that tuition for higher education will be paid in part, or in full, by the state budget. The World Education Encyclopedia added that this law states that “Latvian residents have the right to education” (771). In 1995 the Latvian Educational Concept was passed. This concept “outlines the strategy of educational development and the direction of educational reforms”, and there are more reforms to be passed. The Law of Religious Organizations, which provided freedom of religion, was also passed in 1995. This law allows for religious instruction in schools, however, at the primary level the students are only allowed to take the class with parental permission (“Primary”).
The World Education Encyclopedia states that “the principle goal of education, as stated in the Latvian Concept of Education and the Law of Education, is to provide conditions for the development and perfection of one’s spiritual, creative, physical, and professional abilities” (772). Finally, it is stated in the article “Primary Education in Latvia” that the Ministry of Science and Education is responsible for the creating, reforming, and closing of any educational facility. The Ministry also decides what happens with all of the money (e.g. resources and salary rates). However, in order to integrate Latvia into the European system the World Education Encyclopedia states that the Ministry must first:
° “Compile a list of professions available in Latvia,
°Develop laws on mutual recognition of diplomas and qualifications,
°Encourage universities to adjust their teaching programs to the European Union (EU) requirements, and
°Insure implementation of the law in educational programs (773).” An article that I read states, that there are two education systems in Latvia that are both funded by the state. These two systems are either instructed completely in Latvian or Russian, however learning the national language is mandatory at all schools and levels. The required system of education in Latvia starts at the age of six or seven, but pre-school is also offered, voluntarily, for all children, up to the age of seven, to help prepare them for school. The educational values taught in pre-school include learning the native tongue, sensory development, and the formation of mathematical notions. Latvia’s compulsory education teaches the ages of six/seven until fifteen. The first four years are considered the primary years and the following five years are called the lower secondary classes. In primary school the Educational Concept sets the main goals for education. A few of these goals are: to promote the development of a knowledgeable, well-educated, skilled, morally, and esthetically formed individual; to promote the development of an independent, skilled, and responsible individual in a democratic society; and to create conditions conducive to life-long continued education. The main aim of primary education is to promote the humane, creative and all-around development of the child. The curriculum aims are also given. A few of these aims are to promote tolerance and respect of the feelings, thoughts and opinions of others, and to promote the development of communication skills. Also, they would like to promote the emotional, creative, social, and cognitive development of the student along with teaching language skills. Finally, they would like to promote the desire to learn and the joy of learning. Primary education also provides electives. The Ministry suggests moral values and qualities, and conduct and interpersonal relations as topics (“Primary”).
Finally, there is the upper secondary education. Strausa points out that this part of the Latvian education system includes twelve subjects. There are five compulsory subjects, Latvian Language and Literature, mathematics, one foreign language, history, and physical education. The other seven subjects are chosen from a variety of topics. This part of education involves two levels, basic and advanced, for each subject. “All holders of general secondary education certificates are eligible for admission to higher education.” The World Education Encyclopedia gives the Latvian ten point grading scale, a ten or a nine is rarely ever given because it means that the student’s knowledge and skills are significantly higher than expected. An eight means excellent, a seven is good, a six is almost good and a five is fair, at four you are barely satisfactory and just barely pass. Finally, a three is unsatisfactory and twos and ones are never used (772). Latvia has not only taken on the European education system, but it is now going to try and shift the schools from Russian to Latvian. However, the United Nations (UN) feels that it might be happening too quickly. They are also worried that the state might not be taking enough precautions when it comes to preventing consequences. The biggest problem is the ethnic minority protections (“UN Body”). “Latvian is replacing Russian as the language of instruction. In the 1997-1998 academic years, 72 percent of primary school pupils were taught in Latvian, 14 percent in Russian, and 12 percent in both (Latvia).” There is a problem however. The students coming from these schools don’t seem to have learned as much about Latvian history as they should, and because of this they aren’t having the best luck getting into universities and aren’t working hard in the labor market. One thing they are trying to do is preserve the student’s national identities (“Russian Minority”). Education in Latvia is increasing in numbers. More students are choosing to attend higher levels of education, which is increasing their chances in better jobs and better socioeconomic status, and also increasing their funding for schools by the states. Over the years more opportunities have been made and programs have been added to support those who are willing and eager to learn. Latvia established their own social policy by having others live in various countries and then all coming back together with laws and regulations that those countries had set in place. There is nothing really wrong with social policy change, but there were things that the Latvians had not necessarily taken into consideration. It wasn’t until the mid-1900 that Latvian officials even brought up an institutional basis for family policy. Family policy is important for the lives that depend on them. Latvia didn’t even really have any laws or services for those who are disadvantaged. In 1995, Latvians passed the law “On Social Assistance” which involved local government into rendering social assistance services for the disadvantaged. I was baffled because I was just thinking about all of the families who have children born with disabilities and how they didn’t even offer any assistance for those families in need just took my breath away. They, as in the Latvians, didn’t even develop their own social policy until the early 1900’s but it still took them 5 additional years to come up with assistance to those in need. Three years later, according to Agita Kaupuza, The Constitution of the Republic of Latvia, in 1998 passed a law stating, “The State shall protect and support marriage, the family, the rights of parents, and the rights of child. The State shall provide special support to disabled children, children left without parental care or who have suffered from violence.” With that law being passed they also pushed for local services to better the communities and the children. In 2003 they established the “Protection of the Rights of the Child Law,” (Kaupuza, 6). This law added day camps for low-income families, integrations for children with disabilities, and also added support to children with little to no parental care. Even though it took Latvia a little longer to develop and establish these laws, they still are progressing. Children and their parents have their rights and freedom which they didn’t have before. Gladly enough they have even offered an extra hand in supporting children from low-income families and those without.
Health Care
Trends in life expectancy within Latvia are similar to those in other eastern European countries. While Latvians have had one of the lowest life expectancies, this trend is now being reversed as a result of economic reforms and economic stabilization .Infant mortality is still high though it has decreased slightly, from 15.7 per1000 live births in 1991 to 11.3 in 1999. Maternal mortality is high and despite some fluctuations has shown a generally increasing trend since 1991, dropping somewhat to 41.2 per 100 000 in 1999.The leading causes of death are diseases of the circulatory system, cancer and external causes. As in the other Baltic countries and the Russian Federation, there has been a sharp increase in mortality from injuries and poisoning in the first half of the 1990s, but this has declined since 1994. Similarly, suicides and homicides increased dramatically and peaked in 1993, but are now declining.
In1989, there was been an alarming increase in tuberculosis in Latvia. The number of reported cases of diphtheria was very high, with 67 new cases registered in 1998, compared to 42 cases in 1997. In the same period the number of diphtheria carriers has increased 2.9 times. This situation is especially disturbing since the diphtheria vaccine is free-of-charge. There is also an increase in the HIV/AIDS incidence among intravenous drug users, causing the overall AIDS rate to increase rapidly. In 1998, there were 163 new cases of HIV and 11 AIDS cases. At the end of 1998, 251 cumulative cases of HIV were registered. Further, morbidity and mortality from tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) have significantly increased over the past few years. Since 1990 the incidence of TBE has increased four times. Latvia is also burdened with a relatively high prevalence of smoking and alcohol consumption.
In 1988 the Latvian Physicians’ Association was re-established and went on to play a significant role in the introductory process of health care reforms. Its initial efforts were directed towards increasing physician autonomy and improving the status of the medical profession and income of physicians. Since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the administrative structure of health care management has been changed several times. In 1993 the Ministries of Health, Labor and Social Welfare were merged into the Ministry of Welfare. Within the Ministry ongoing changes were initiated. Sickness funds were re-established in 1994 to provided funds for health services (though these are not funded from insurance contributions). In 1998 the State Compulsory Health Insurance Agency was established. After enactment of legislation “On Local Governments” in 1993, most of the responsibility for providing primary and secondary health care services was delegated to the local governments. Specialized services remained the responsibility of the state. Health care reforms have further centered on the development of primary health care based on general practice.

Women’s Rights
Women everywhere have faced oppression in one form or another. Having no freedom of speech, not being able to vote, unable to work, and even unable to own property. While the world has come a long way with women’s rights there is still work to be done in various places. Some counties addressed the problem earlier than other, while some countries still repress women today. In Latvia, there are still some inequality issues with gender and sexuality today.
With all of the citizens and noncitizens in Latvia it made the hierarchy change. Women are still beneath men, next come the women with citizenship, and then come the women without citizenship. Even here it is shown that the rights are not equal. If all men, citizen or not comes before women, then why is it that women are separated into two different categories?
Within the work field is another inequality that Latvian women have faced. Sexual harassment is seen every day on the job. It includes but not is limited to: firing based on age, gender, appearance, acts of sexual favors, and the exploitation of women in the massive sex industry. There was little to no legislative attention or regulations brought forth for these kinds of discriminations until 1996 when the Latvia Labor Code was revised providing equal employment opportunities for both genders. While equality was reached in some aspects of the Latvians daily lives, there was still a catch. The government gave money to women for childcare and other expenses for the first 3 years of their children’s lives whether both parents were employed or not. They thought it to be a necessity for all families. If a mother however was still working after the child’s 3rd birthday they cut off the assistance. If only the father were working they would still provide assistance. Some women didn’t work because it is believed that women are to bear children, take care of the home and family while men worked.
In the 1990s, the establishment of various women’s groups, clubs and NGOs testifies to an increase in women’s civic and political participation and representation in Latvia. NGOs, in particular, have led the campaign for gender equality. The EU had an important and notable influence on local campaigns for gender equality, both at state level and in encouraging the establishment of NGOs. The Resource Centre for Women “Marta” and the Coalition for Gender Equality in Latvia (linking 22 organizations) have leading roles in the consolidation of the women’s movemet for equal rights in Latvia. Significantly, on 12 October 2003 the European Women’s Lobby voted to accept the women’s network of Latvia as a full members of EWL. Main collaboration partners and supporters of women’s NGO’s in Latvia:Nordic Council of Ministers Information Office in Riga; United Nations Development Programme; UNFPA project “Regional Capacity Building and Co-ordination for Gender Equality in Reproductive Health; Embassy of the United States of America; Ministry of Welfare, Social Policy Development Department; and The Latvian Center for Human Rights and Ethnic Studies. Not every day do we see these kinds of things around where we live because times have changed for us here in the U.S. but not everything is completely equal in other places like Latvia for example. Women are slowly gaining more and more strength to live the lives that they’ve been dreaming of. They have come together and got others involved in their efforts to become more equal in all aspects of life.

Social Welfare
From the early beginning of 1990th there was trend to have minimum incomes guaranteed by the state. In April 1992 with the Common Decree of the Supreme Council and the Council of Ministers crisis subsistence minimum was introduced. In crisis situation Latvian Government's main priority in social policy was to provide living standard minimum to disadvantaged groups: disabled, pensioners, children. Minimal pensions and all kinds of benefits were periodically increased.
The order of receiving social assistance benefits was not constant; it has been changed many times during recent years. Families in Latvia could receive the status of poor family since the end of 1993. In 1993, November 18 Council of Ministers reduced the extent of help, declaring that rights on receiving benefits had only person, whose income is lower than 75% of food part of crisis minimum. There were some features moving to the distinction between the "deserving" and the "undeserving poor" which is a cornerstone of the minimal welfare state. Latvia has a mixed pension system, with pensioners who worked during the Soviet era receiving small pensions based on receipts from current workers, while a 1990s pension reform introduced a capital-funded pension scheme for current employees. The medical system is maintained by a mix of state and private financing. Certain types of visits to family doctors or specialists and certain procedures require co-financing. Co-financing often takes the form of informal cash payment.
Primary and secondary education is free, although there is a shortage of places in nursery schools. Tertiary education is offered at a mix of public and private institutions.
The 2008–2010 economic crisis led the government to make major cuts in public spending. Many of the austerity provisions, like cuts in pension payouts to working pensioners and cuts to maternity benefits, were successfully challenged in the Latvian Constitutional Court. Cuts to higher education and research funding and the medical system in general have seriously affected the quality of services provided, while pensions have remained untouched.
Women and ethnic minorities have equal access to higher education, public services and employment opportunities. Latvia is ranked 18th in the 2010 Global Gender Gap Index More than two-thirds of students in higher education are funded through private means. Students do have access to inexpensive student loans to finance their education, and the higher education system also allows students to maintain part-time and, in some cases, even full-time employment, while enrolled in tertiary programs. Nevertheless, growing poverty increasingly constrains access to education.
Private property rights are adequately protected for both Latvian citizens and foreign investors. The Latvian private sector employs over 75% of the workforce, and accounts for a similar amount of Latvian GDP. Privatization was largely completed by the end of the 1990s. However, privatization was a highly contentious and politicized process, and many large enterprises have still not been privatized. A successful citizens’ initiative process in 2000 led parliament to adopt a law that bands the privatization of the national electricity company. The state holds a majority stake in the fast-growing national airline Air Baltic. Utilities and public sector services-railway, electricity, communal services, education, research, health care and social services-have been liberalized, but in many of these industries competition is not fair regarding the private sector. For example, state and private education and research institutions are not equally eligible to participate in state programs that promote and support innovation.
Latvia has come a long way from where they used to stand as a liberal welfare state. Latvians have become more aware of the many things that they faced like the recession and many inequalities in their history. They have started to shift their focus on getting out of the debt that they were hit with in 2008 and there goal is to get the economy back to the top. Women have stood up for their rights and that has only bettered Latvia as a whole. With the women out in the workplace just as must as the men Latvians are slowly gaining their economic efficiency back. More and more people are going to school to receive higher education and with higher education come higher pay. Education is really important to me as well as women’s rights. Latvia has put more emphasis on these things and has come up from where they stood.

Work Cited
Dolowits D.P., Marsh D. “Who learns from Whom: a Review of the Policy Transfer Literature.” –Political Studies 22 (2), 1996: 343-357. 23 Sept. 2012

Kaupuza, Agita. Family policy in Estonia and Latvia. Fafo. 2005:26. Web. 3 October 2012

“Latvia.” World Education Encyclopedia. Edition 2002. Web. 27 Oct. 2012
Primary Education In Latvia. March 2 2002. Web 9 Oct 2012

Strausa, Tamara. Education in Latvia. Web. 9 Oct. 2012

Stukuls, Daina. Body of the Nation: Mothering, Prostitution, and Women's Place in Postcommunist Latvia. : Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies, Slavic Review , Vol. 58, No. 3 (Autumn, 1999), pp. 537-558. Article Stable URL: 17 October 2012.

Rajevska, Feliciana. “Social Policy in Latvia; welfare state under double pressure.” 2005: 1-44. 23 Sept. 2012.

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