Latvians in Ireland and UK

Earlier, I did two posts about of people who have left Latvia for Ireland and UK. To summarize them briefly, Latvia lacks reliable statistics on this topic. Latvian statistics office only records the people who report their move to the authorities, obtaining a number of about 5,000 emigrants per year which is a major underestimate. Newspapers occasionally claim 100,000 or even 200,000 emigrants from Latvia to UK and Ireland. (Total population in Latvia 2 million 270 thousands 2007).

To find some reliable numbers, I looked at the statistics from UK and Ireland. Both of them maintain detailed records of how many Eastern Europeans arrived to work there. There are 25,956 Latvians who have registered with Irish authorities from May 2004 (the date when Latvia joined EU) and July 2007 (the most recent month for which they have data). UK reports 34,460 Latvian workers arriving there up to end of June 2007. Those are substantial numbers of people, although they are less than the wildest claims by media.

Also, looking for a better life in Ireland or UK is far from being specific to Latvians. There are substantial numbers of Poles, Slovaks, Lithuanians there, as well. Latvia, however, has the second highest emigration rate in EU8. (Lithuania is the only country with a higher emigration rate.) By breaking down the numbers by year, we can see that the emigration is rapidly decreasing and the number of people who left Latvia in 2007 only a half of what it was in 2005.

Irish and UK data have one thing missing in them. Both countries register people who arrive there. They don’t record whether those people are still there or not. So, we know that there were 60,000 Latvians who worked in UK or Ireland at some point… but some of them may be back in Latvia now.

Now, there is a new set of data. In April 2006, Ireland had a census, recording everyone who was in the country on the census day. Here are the numbers:

55,076 Poles
19,912 Lithuanians
11,105 Latvians
7,377 Slovaks
4,371 Czechs
2,994 Hungarians

The number of Estonians was too small to make the press release.

Quite a few of those people who move to Ireland, stay there. But quite a few people also return to Latvia (or Poland and Estonia). Sometimes, the life in Ireland only looks better from a distance.

The data is from the last year. If the same trend is still true today, the number of Latvians who have moved to UK or Ireland and are still there, should be in the 30,000-40,000 range. Substantial but far from 100,000 numbers that get thrown around in the news.

This is one of the main problems for economy of Latvia.

Over the last years, tens of thousands of Latvians have left Latvia to search for a better life in Ireland. Over there, they would work long hours in jobs that “locals would not take”, as farm workers, supermarket cashiers or cleaners. Their income would be below-average by Irish standards but much more than what they would have earned in Latvia.

Some tables to have an overview about general situation. (

(More information:
(Video – Latvians in Ireland


2 thoughts on “Latvians in Ireland and UK

  1. I´m always laughing about this phenomenon of polish immigrants whom you can meet really everywhere! In early 2004 they had been the 13th largest foreign national group in the UK, now as we can see they are the largest one. They had replaced people born in India, many of whom now have UK citizenship, as the biggest group. But when it came to reasons for coming or going, the vast majority of Polish migrants come to the UK for economic reasons, but leave because they miss home or want to be with their friends and family in Poland. Anyway, it still seems that Poles feel comfortable all around the world. They build their own shops with national products in their new home (foreign) countries. For example now some 44 million pints of Lech and Tyskie, Poland’s two leading beer brands, are sold annually in the UK.
    Some Polish migrants think that better employment prospects in Poland will encourage Poles living in the UK to return to Poland. Another reason to go back home or not to come to the UK might be the devaluation of pound in relation to the Polish currency…

  2. yeah i think this is true and another reason for the migration of polish population to uk and surrounding areas is to earn a higher wage and better living conditions for their familys back home. many of them do not intend to stay in the uk indefinetly, only long enough to earn some savings to return to their familys with.
    There are actually so many polish people in my home town that one of the bars has a polish night every wednesday…crazy.


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