3.2.2. Latvian Language in the Labour Market In private businesses in Latvia, especially in Riga and its environs, the practice to ask for knowledge of the Russian language and its use in the work sphere where it is not justifiable on a professional basis is observed. It creates discriminatory hurdles in the labour market, especially for young Latvians whose Russian language skills have declined in the last 20 years.29 Legal arrangements and the control of their introduction have to ensure that Latvians in Latvia do not get discriminated in the labour market because they do not know the Russian language or do not wish to use it at work.
One of the main hurdles that national minorities come into contact with in the labour market in Latvia is related to Latvian language skills. This hurdle, as well as the ethnical isolation tendencies prevent representatives of the national minorities from working in the public administration.30 A proportion of the unemployed from the national minorities with low Latvian language skills has much fewer opportunities of moving from being registered as unemployed to being employed and a greater chance of remaining in the lines of the long-term unemployed.31 However, the labour market provides the stimulus to learn the Latvian language at a suitable level.
The integration of new immigrants into the Latvian language space is a new challenge for Latvia’s integration policy. New arrivals consider important to learn the Latvian language at the basic knowledge level; as they have a possibility to make contact with the population of the State also in the Russian language, they lack the motivation to learn the Latvian language. The community of third-country nationals 32 – the new immigrants (16,516) - in Latvia is composed of people who arrived mainly from post-Soviet countries after 1992.33
The lack of Latvian language skills reduces the opportunities for new immigrants to upgrade their professional development, to follow events in the State and to participate in the social life.34 The immigrants’ poor official language skills and the limited offer of the language learning opportunities create the need for a separate policy area in the framework of which a system of integration measures, both prior to the arrival of an immigrant to Latvia, as well as directly after receiving a residence permit should be developed.