Development of Population Policy

Some attempts to regulate population development in Latvia were made already in the second part of the 1950s, when a group of Latvian government members and party functionaries undertook a programme to counter some of the excesses of the post - war immigration and deportations. They passed regulations restricting migration in Latvia, requested knowledge of the Latvian language for functionaries and planned to limit the expansion of those industries requiring a large influx of workers. But the program was rejected by Soviet authorities, and its authors lost not only their positions but were even exiled in some cases.

New attempts to reactivate demographic policy were undertaken in the 1970s when demographers and policy makers raised the question of the need to increase fertility. In 1976, a republican inter - departmental council for dealing with population problems, the first in the former Soviet Union, was formed in Latvia. It was, however, of short duration, mainly because of political reasons.

In 1980, the authorities in Latvia approved a complex set of measures to improve a demographic situation, and particularly to stimulate the natural increase of population. In 1981, certain measures for assistance of families with children were adopted.

In accordance with a government decision in 1983 for the first time in the USSR a republican comprehensive special - purpose programme was prepared. The programme "Population of Latvia in 1986 - 2000" was accepted in 1986 and was a constituent part of the plan for the republic's economic and social development for 1986 - 1990. The main objective of the programme was to ensure population reproduction at simple or slightly extended natural reproduction of the entire population and able-bodied population under the circumstances of increased life expectancy and a rise in cultural and educational levels. The general goal has been split into respective subordinate goals with four subprograms for fundamental activities: increase of fertility and strengthening of the family, the increase in life expectancy, the raising of cultural - educational level, and the optimization of employment.

In 1987, a new resolution of authorities on the improvement of the demographic situation was passed. A particular attention was paid to young people and their maturity for family life. The resolution also provided for scientific research and propagation of demographic knowledge.

In 1988, when Latvia still had a status of constituent republic of the USSR, a special governmental commission of specialists - officials, scientists and public figures - worked out proposals and rules for migration regulation.

The governments of Latvia in the 1990s had no specified objectives for population growth. In December 1992, the Supreme Council of Latvia formed a Demographic Commission for the drafting and implementation of demographic policy, but it ceased to work when a new parliament was elected in June 1993. A special Demographic Commission was set up by a Decree of Latvia's Government in early 1994 when preparations for the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development started. The government also formed a Commission on the Protection of Children's Rights. The role of non-governmental organizations as partners in national population policies has increased.

Appreciating the effectiveness of the programme's approach to the regulation of population development, the first government of independent Latvia issued a decision in December 1990 to develop a new national population programme, similar to those developed in the mid of the 1980s. But this programme was never accepted by the government, mainly because of economic difficulties.

The Cabinet of Ministers of Latvia on September 26, 1996 has conceptually accepted a health protection strategy which aim is to extend an efficient life expectancy of population in Latvia. The main directions of activities on population health promotion are foreseen for the next five years. Also, a project of national programme "Population of Latvia" (National Health and Social Security) has been worked out. The structure of this work is formed by three basic chapters: Health, Work and Social security.