Working in Latvia
The job market
What are your chances of getting a job?
Latvia suffered during the recession and as a result unemployment rates grew. Things are now improving but the labour market hasn't fully recovered yet. A rapid increase in the number of available jobs isn't expected but your best chances are in the capital of Riga, where unemployment is lowest.
Unemployment rates are high which means workers should be available, however Latvian employers have reported a difficulty in being able to find people with the relevant qualifications and certain skills including communication, presentation, negotiation and computer skills. If you can show evidence of these in your application you may increase your chances of finding a job.
A good command of Latvian is usually required but employers also look for knowledge of foreign languages including English and Russian.
Where can you work?
- Major industries: processed foods, wood products, textiles, processed metals, transit, synthetic fibres, electronics and pharmaceuticals.
- Recent growth areas: an increase in demand for highly skilled professionals is expected, particularly in manufacturing and commercial services.
- Industries in decline: all sectors are expected to have less demand for low-skilled labour and the demand for medium-skilled agricultural workers will decrease.
- Shortage occupations: jobs may be found in state administration, commerce, manufacturing, transportation and health and social care. Construction specialists, pharmacologists and engineers may also be in demand.
- Major companies: Grindex Pharmaceuticals (pharmaceuticals), Phillip Morris International (tobacco company), KPMG (professional services), Latvenergo (utilities), Lattelecom (IT and telecommunications), Tele2 (telecommunications), AirBaltic (national airline).
What’s it like working in Latvia?
- Average working hours: a standard working day can't exceed eight hours while a normal working week is 40 hours. Overtime is permitted if agreed by both employer and employee.
- Holidays: employees are entitled to a minimum of four weeks of paid leave and all public holidays a year.
- Tax rates: income from paid work is subject to social insurance contributions at a rate of 10.5% by the employee. Private income tax is at a rate of 24%. Don't forget to check your UK tax and National Insurance position with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to ensure that you are not losing any UK pension rights.
Applying for jobs
As some jobs are advertised online it's possible to apply for work while still in the UK. Typical application methods include a CV and covering letter, with some larger companies using application forms. It's also possible to send speculative applications which state the type of work you're looking for and why you're interested in working for that particular company.
It's most likely that Latvian employers will expect your application to be in Latvian as most jobs require some knowledge of the language. Russian, German and English may also be used in employment so check job advertisements carefully for language requirements.
CVs are typically similar to those used in the UK. Your CV and covering letter should be tailored to each specific job that you apply for. Make sure your covering letter explains why you're applying for the role and want to work for that company in Latvia.
Interviews are also similar to those carried out in the UK. International employers will use their normal selection procedures, which may include aptitude tests and assessment centres.
Research a company before attending an interview, including the location of its European headquarters and its main product/work. Consider the challenges of an Eastern European economy. Get more applications and CV advice.
Will your UK qualifications be recognised?
Following the Bologna Process and the creation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), UK qualifications are usually recognised by an employer.
- Eurociett: the European Confederation of Private Employment Agencies is a regulatory body for recruitment agencies and has a directory of members.
- Baltic Times – an English language publication.
- Dienas Bizness – in Latvian.
- Latvijas Avize – in Latvian.
- The State Employment Agency (NVA) provides support to the unemployed and jobseekers. Vacancies are available on the NVA database (in Latvian). Also has a facility to upload your CV.
- Finding work through personal contacts is common in Latvia.
Getting work experience
Erasmus+ is the EU programme for education, training, youth and sport for 2014-2020 and covers student exchange, work experience and volunteering opportunities. Both under and postgraduate students can study abroad for 3 to 12 months. Erasmus+ also provides opportunities for work experience for students to learn new skills or languages, as well as volunteering in different countries for between 2 weeks and 12 months.
Work placements and internships
- Course-related placements may be available for undergraduates of science, engineering, technology and applied arts courses with IAESTE (International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience). Placements tend to start in the summer and last from four weeks up to one year.
- Professional internships in management, technology, education and development are available from 6 weeks to 18 months through AIESEC (Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales).
- You can search for various placements in Latvia on Europlacement.
- Many international companies may also offer internships and it's worth looking at their individual websites.
There is a demand for English Language teachers, especially in the capital, Riga, but it's important to check pay and conditions carefully since they vary between schools. Generally, pay is fairly low. Three of the most well-known schools are International House Riga, R&V Language Centre and The International School of Latvia.
It may be difficult to find casual work in Latvia, but if available it's likely to be in bars, restaurants, shops or the areas of childcare and cleaning.
Gap year and volunteering opportunities
Opportunities are limited and are likely to be in teaching English and in voluntary projects.
There are several organisations that offer voluntary work programmes in Latvia. Check out your university careers service as they may have sources of information, such as databases on volunteering opportunities.
Do you need a visa?
Citizens from EU countries don't need a visa to enter or work in Latvia. However, if you wish to stay there for longer than 90 days within a six month period (counting from the day of entry) you need to apply for a residence permit. This is issued by the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (OCMA) in Latvia and can also be applied for through the Embassy of Latvia in London.
If you're from a non-EU country, contact the Latvian embassy in the country where you're currently living for information on whether you require a visa or work permit. If you're living in the UK, go to the Embassy of Latvia in London.
How do you become a permanent resident?
Temporary residence permits are issued for a period of time from one to five years (depending on the reason of application) and can be prolonged after they expire. Only after five years of residency can you apply for a permanent residency permit.
Living in Latvia
- Cost of living: salaries in Latvia are not competitive in comparison to the rest of Europe. The average monthly wage is around €737. Typically 30–40% of this is spent on rent and utilities.
- Internet domain: .lv
- Currency: Euro (€)
- Health: if you're visiting Latvia you should make sure you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This entitles you to state provided medical treatment. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Latvian nationals, so if a Latvian national has to pay a fee for treatment, you'll also have to pay a fee. It's important that you also have travel insurance as the EHIC does not cover ongoing medical treatment or non-urgent treatment.
- Type of government: parliamentary democracy
- Laws and customs: possession of even small amounts of drugs can lead to lengthy pre-trial detention and possibly a custodial sentence. It's advisable that you carry some form of identification with you at all times, for example, a photocopy of your passport.
- Emergency numbers: the European emergency number 112 can be used in Latvia for ambulances, fire service and police. UK citizens can get help in an emergency from the British Embassy in Latvia.
- People: Latvian 61%, Russian 26%, remainder is made up of other ethnic groups including Belarusian, Ukrainian, Polish and Lithuanian.
- Major religion: Lutheran 20%, Orthodox 15%, other Christian 1%.