Latvia Population, Politics and Economy
Population in Latvia
According to directoryaah, almost 2 million people live in Latvia with a statistical population density of approx. 30 residents per km². However, about half of Latvia’s population lives in the seven largest cities. Population growth in Latvia has been declining by around -1% for decades due to massive emigration and a decline in births. However, there has been a slight upward trend in the birth rate since 2014. With a median age of almost 44 years, Latvian society is relatively old.
In addition to the Latvian majority (approx. 62.% of the population) there is a significant Russian minority (27%) and smaller groups such as Belarusians (3.3%) and Ukrainians (2.2%), who mostly also speak Russian, as well Poles (2.2%) and Lithuanians (1.2%). There are also Estonians, Germans, Roma and Tatars. In addition, there are still around 2000 Suiti and around 170 Livs, mainly in Riga and some coastal villages in Courland.
Latvian is the mother tongue of around two thirds of the population and at the same time the official language that is recorded. In second place is Russian, which 37% of the population speak as their mother tongue. As another Baltic minority language, modern Latgalian is particularly important in the eastern parts of the country. Livish is no longer officially spoken in Latvia.
Over 40% of the Latvian population are non-denominational. About 20% profess the Roman Catholic faith, about 12% are Protestants and minorities follow the Jewish, Muslim and also pagan religion.
Politics and Economy in Latvia
Latvia is a parliamentary democracy. The President appoints and dismisses the elected government and represents Latvia to other states. He also acts as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and has the right to initiate legislation, which is used sporadically. He regularly attends meetings of the Cabinet and Parliament.
The cabinet consists of 17 ministries and is chaired by the prime minister; the cabinet also includes the respective state secretaries and the parliamentary group leaders of the ruling parties, who, however, have no voting rights. Government affairs and the management of the cabinet are incumbent on the Prime Minister, who must be elected by a majority of the 100 MPs.
Latvia is part of the European single market. Together with 18 other EU member states, it forms a monetary union, the euro zone.
The growth of the gross domestic product (GDP) in Latvia has always been over six percent in recent years. In the boom years after joining the EU in 2004, however, households and companies also accumulated high debts. The GDP is around 27 billion euros (2017), with a GDP per capita of around 14.00 euros.
According to ebizdir, despite the stable economic development, Latvia is the poorest country of the three Baltic states. Although the unemployment rate fell to 9.2% in 2017, around 20% of the population are at risk of poverty and over 27% of Latvians lived under considerable material deprivation.
Important branches of industry in Latvia are machine and vehicle construction, the food industry, metallurgy and metal goods production, the textile industry, wood processing and paper production as well as fertilizer production.
Transport network in Latvia
The entire road network in Latvia covers around 72,500 km, of which around 14,700 km are paved. Some of the main state roads are built like motorways and are roughly comparable to Germany’s federal highways. Individual transport is steadily increasing in importance. A large part of passenger traffic is handled by buses on a dense and well-frequented network. There is also an extensive network of international routes, which also connects most major German cities with the Latvian capital Riga.
The rail network in Latvia is around 2000 km long and is mainly used for freight transport. Passenger transport by rail has been losing importance in Latvia for years compared to individual and bus transport. In passenger transport, the S-Bahn-like suburban train services in the greater Riga area and the connections via Daugavpils to Russia, Belarus and Lithuania are served. The port city of Liepāja is currently only served on Friday / Sunday from Riga. The train connection between Germany and Latvia is connected with several changes because of the different gauge.
The most important airline is Air Baltic, which mainly flies to destinations in Northern, Central and Western Europe as well as in Russia and the former CIS countries. Riga Airport is the largest airport in the Baltic States. From here, destinations in Northern, Central and Western Europe as well as Russia and the former CIS countries are served.
The most important sea ports are Riga, Liepāja and Ventspils, which are important for Russian oil exports, among others. There are also ferry connections to Sweden, Denmark and Germany.
Cities and regions in Latvia
In addition to the four historical regions of Courland in the west, Livonia in the northeast, Zemgale and Latgale, Latvia is administratively divided into nine so-called republic-independent cities and 110 districts. The largest cities or urban regions are the capital Riga with almost 700,000 residents, Daugavpils with approx. 96,800 residents, Libau with approx. 79,000 residents, Mitau with approx. 62,000 residents, Riga Beach with approx. 57,600 residents, Windau with approx. 40,300 residents and Rositten with approx. 36,800 residents.