Core - Periphery Divide in Spatial Demographic Development of Latvia: Policy Challenge or Continuous Development Pattern?

Juris Krūmiņš, University of Latvia
Aleksandrs Dahs, University of Latvia

Since the restoration of independence in 1991, spatial demographic development in Latvia has been characterised by a widening core (central area of the country: capital city Riga and Pieriga region) and periphery (surrounding regions and counties) gap. Regional municipal statistics testify that observed demographic dichotomy differs by variables used, but is consistent in terms of spatial distribution and demonstrates stable deviating trends.

While the divergent population development paths for the core and periphery regions are obvious, the principal policy dilemma which they pose remains controversial – weather the different modes of regional demographic development are just a temporary policy challenge, or do they form a background for further continuous demographic development pattern? These questions are closely linked with scenarios of regional socio-economic development and environmental protection. Additional repercussions are associated with the current situation and expected changes in taxation system.

Aim of the study is to analyse a factual changes and differences in demographic development in the core and periphery areas of Latvia since country joined the European Union, and to compare how they conform to guidelines given in national planning and policy documents, and how those changes and peculiarities are evaluated by residents.


Core –Periphery Divide in Spatial Demographic Development of Latvia: Policy Challengeor Continuous Development Pattern?

 

Introduction

Sincethe restoration of independence in 1991, spatial demographic development inLatvia has been characterised by a widening core (central area of the country: capitalcity Riga and Pieriga region) and periphery (surrounding regions and counties) gap.Regional municipal statistics testify that observed demographic dichotomy differsby variables used, but is consistent in terms of spatial distribution anddemonstrates stable deviating trends.

Whilethe divergent population development paths for the core and periphery regionsare obvious, the principal policy dilemma which they pose remains controversial– weather the different modes of regional demographic development are just atemporary policy challenge, or do they form a background for further continuousdemographic development pattern? These questions are closely linked withscenarios of regional socio-economic development and environmental protection.Additional repercussions are associated with the current situation and expectedchanges in taxation system.

Aim ofthe study is to analyse a factual changes and differences in demographicdevelopment in the core and periphery areas of Latvia since country joined theEuropean Union, and to compare how they conform with guidelines given in nationalplanning and policy documents, and how those changes and peculiarities areevaluated by residents.

Dataand Methods

Populationcensus, estimates and Population register data, as well as territorialsocio-economic indicators are used in study, while paying special attention tothe constructed indicator “missing declared population” (difference between declaredor registered and factually estimated population number, hereafter - MDP). Byconducting comparative studies of local municipalities representing core andperiphery regions, underlying causes of the observed dichotomy are analysed anddiscuss their socio-economic and fiscal implications.

Source: Authors’ elaboration based onCentral Statistical Bureau data

Figure 1. Selected demographicchanges in counties, Latvia 2009-2014

Content-analysisof the relevant national planning and policy documents is conducted in searchof specific policy arguments and instruments implemented in spatial demographicdevelopment.

Samplesurvey data from the year 2016 about inhabitants’ perceptions concerning currentregional demographic changes and challenges are analysed (18-74 years old 2049residents were interviewed in 216 survey points over the whole territory ofLatvia). Stratified random sampling data were weighted according to territorialdistribution, age, sex and ethnicity. Survey results help better to understand determinantsof the core-periphery differences in demographic development and theirconsequences.

Key findings

Demographicvariables in the core and periphery regions have different spatial patterns.Age-standardized death rates (ASDR) for men demonstrates clear spatial patternof core-periphery divide, while female ASDR appears to have more uniform spatialdistribution. MDP rate differs greatly throughout the country, ranging from1.0% in Burtnieku county up to 14.1% in Jurmala city or 13.1% in Auces county.Jurmala (high-income resort within the core region) and Auce (ruralmunicipality) obviously have different underlying causes for high MDP and,consequently, produce different socio - economic outcomes.

Nationalpolicy response to the core - periphery divide can be characterised by twodistinct views. First, is found in development strategy documents. They callfor socio - economic convergence and cohesion through strengthening regionaldevelopment centres and providing earmarked support to municipalities. Second, isfound in short-term and policy documents, advocating a more pragmatic andreactive solutions. Emphasis is placed on the role of individual municipalitiesand their development programmes, while identifying the EU Cohesion policyfunds as main sources of funding for change or adaptation.

Source: Sustainable Development Strategyof Latvia until 2030

            Figure 2. Spaces ofnational interest in Latvia

Publicopinion on this matter differs significantly by region.Significantdifferences exist in perceptions among inhabitants of the core - periphery regions.Particularly interesting observations are found in the opinions on the role ofthe government, municipality and self-reliance in addressing local demographic problems.Residents of the capital city Riga much less than residents in periphery relayto the parliament, government and municipality, but consider as majorcontributors to solve a forthcoming demographic problems – attitude in workingplace, political parties and NGOs. Residents of the central part of the countryare not so much worrying about depopulation and social inequality in Latvia asresidents in the periphery.

Finally,it is safe to conclude that further changes to the national tax model andmunicipal budget allocation system will be required in the forthcoming years,in order to cope with the widening demographic gap between central and outlyingregions of the country.  

Presented in Session 1234: Environment, Development, and Space