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. The downturn has now halted and the labour market has been slowly improving since 2010. Unemployment rates have gone down, although there are still large variations between different parts of the country.
The centre of economic activity is centred in and around the capital, Riga, which has the lowest unemployment rate in Latvia. Many people live in the surrounding districts and commute.
Latvian employers have reported a difficulty in being able to find people with the relevant qualifications and certain skills including communication, presentation and computer skills. If you can show evidence of these in your application you may increase your chances of finding a job. There is also a shortage of specialists in areas such as IT, engineering, medicine and metal processing.
You’ll usually need a good command of Latvian, the official language in Latvia, to find a job. However, a knowledge of Russian is also sought after by many employers, followed by English. In some cases employers will also look for German or Scandinavian languages. Employers are increasingly looking for workers with knowledge of several foreign languages.
English-only jobs are only available in a few areas of work, such as language schools, IT and possibly middle and senior management roles in international companies.
Where can you work?
- Major industries: processed foods, processed wood products, transit services, textiles, processed metals, synthetic fibres, electronics, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing of machinery and electronics.
- Recent growth areas: an increase in demand for highly skilled professionals is expected, particularly in the manufacturing and service industries (commercial services). Employers are also looking for specialists in science, engineering and IT, as well as commercial and administrative specialists, and law, social and cultural affairs professionals.
- Industries in decline: all sectors are expected to have less demand for low-skilled labour and the demand for agricultural workers will also decrease.
- Shortage occupations: there is a shortage of skilled workers in areas such as software development, senior nursing roles, market research and specialist medical practitioners.
- Major companies: ABLV Bank, AirBaltic (national airline), Bank of Latvia, Elko Group (IT), Grindeks (pharmaceuticals), KPMG (professional services), Lattelecom (IT and telecommunications), Latvenergo (utilities), Latvijas Gāze (utilities), Swedbank.
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 flat rate of 23%. 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 usually similar to those used in the UK. Your CV and covering letter should be tailored to each specific job that you apply for. Remember to include details of all the languages you speak/write and your level (beginner, intermediate and advanced). If you’re sending in a CV in Latvian (or Russian), try to get a native speaker to read through it first.
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. 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.
- CV Online Latvia – site available in English, as well as Latvian and Russian, although most jobs in Latvian.
- CV Market – site available in English, as well as Latvian and Russian, although most jobs in Latvian.
- EURAXESS Latvia – research careers in Latvia (research jobs and fellowships).
- EURES – The European Job Mobility Portal
- LikeIT – IT jobs in the Baltic States (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia).
- Visidarbi.lv – job search engine with vacancies in Latvian.
- Recruitment agencies offering temporary work are a relatively recent development in Latvia. The Temporary Employment Agencies Association of Latvia (TEAAL) represents recruitment agencies in Latvia and is a member of the World Employment Confederation. Its leading representatives are Manpower, Simplika and BIURO.
- Baltic Times – an English language publication.
- Diena – in Latvian.
- Latvijas Avize – in Latvian.
- Neatkariga Rita Avize – in Latvian.
- Vesti segodnya – in Russian.
- The State Employment Agency (NVA) provides support to the unemployed and jobseekers. Vacancies are available on the NVA database (in Latvian). There is also a facility to upload your CV.
- Finding work through personal contacts is common in Latvia. You can also visit jobs fairs to look for opportunities.
- You can also use LinkedIn to find vacancies in Latvia.
- It’s also possible to set up your own business in Latvia. Visit the State Revenue Service website (in Latvian) to find out what steps you need to take.
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
- 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.
- Placements, including virtual placements, in Latvia are also advertised on the Prakse website.
- International companies may also offer internships. Check out the websites of companies you’re interested in to see if they have an office in Latvia.
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. You’ll usually need a degree and a TEFL qualification to get a position. Generally, pay is fairly low.
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.
It may be difficult to find volunteer projects so try the European Voluntary Service (EVS), which is a European Union programme offering young people (17 to 30) the opportunity to volunteer in a range of countries, including Latvia, on projects lasting from 2 weeks to 12 months.
Do you need a visa?
EU citizens 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 register with the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs and receive a registration certificate.
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.
Once you're legally employed in another EU country, you are entitled to equal treatment with nationals of the country where you are working.
How do you become a permanent resident?
EU nationals automatically acquire the right of permanent residence after living in Latvia for an uninterrupted period of five years. If you meet these requirements you can apply for a permanent residence document, confirming your right to live in Latvia without any conditions.
Living in Latvia
- Cost of living: the cost of living in Latvia is around a third lower than in the UK. However, salaries are also lower.
- Internet domain: .lv
- Currency: euro (€)
- Health: if you're visiting Latvia, 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 Riga.
- People: Latvian 62%, Russian 26%, remainder is made up of other ethnic groups including Belarusian, Ukrainian, Polish and Lithuanian.
- Major religion: Christianity