4.2.8 Social cohesion and cultural policies
There is no articulated social cohesion policy in Latvia, however planning documents address the issues that might be included in a social cohesion policy. In recent years, immigration is not at a significant level (3 541 persons in 2007; 3 465 persons in 2008, 2 688 persons in 2009, according to the data of The Central Statistical Bureau), thus social cohesion issues are directed more at the social stratification and social inequality of the permanent residents (both citizens and non-citizens), development of the regions, especially in the context of centralisation of inhabitants, business, entertainment and other activities in the capital (31.4% of the population lives in Riga; 48.7% of the population resides in Riga and its neighbourhood (Pieriga region), source: Central Statistical Bureau of the Republic of Latvia, 2010). 76 towns and cities with almost 70% of the total population of Latvia constitute the urban network of Latvia (survey "Development of Regions in Latvia 2009", available as pdf in English).
The population keeps decreasing in the rural areas of Latvia, shown in the annual survey of the State Regional Development Agency "Development of Regions in Latvia 2007" (in English). At the beginning of 2007, approximately 1 500 persons resided in a single rural local municipality. Rural local municipalities, with up to 999 persons residing, form almost one half of the total number of rural local municipalities (45%). Disparities in the quality of life, as well as the quality and quantity of economic and social infrastructure in large cities, their vicinities and in other territories of the county, considerably increase. Authors of the study on urban and rural interaction have found a correlation between the size of the city and its neighbourhood: the larger the city in terms of its population and economic potential, the larger the surrounding area it influences and its impact on the surrounding rural territory and other towns that are smaller in terms of their population and economic variety is more diverse (the study "Assessment of the Mutual Interaction of the Urban and Rural Territories of Latvia" , available in Latvian, 2009).
The territorial reform completed in 2009 changed the administrative division, consolidating small rural local municipalities in larger territorial administrative units – counties (see chapter 3.2).
Policy documents and social cohesion
The purpose of the Regional Development Law from 2002 is to promote and ensure balanced and sustainable development of the state, taking into account special features and opportunities of the entire state territory and of separate parts thereof, to reduce the unfavourable differences among them, as well as to preserve and develop the features characteristic of the natural and cultural environment of each territory and the development potential thereof.
The National Development Plan 2007-2013 (adopted in 2006), among other priorities, envisages development of the regions, equalisation of employment opportunities between the capital and the regions and augmentation of the welfare of inhabitants.
The State Cultural Policy Guidelines 2006-2015 have defined several objectives matching social cohesion concerns:
The Sustainable Development Strategy of Latvia until 2030 (Latvia 2030, available also in English and Russian) maps out the spatial development perspective, setting as one of the objectives to create equal life and work conditions for all inhabitants regardless of the place of residence by facilitating entrepreneurship in regions, developing transport and communications infrastructure and public services.
EU Structural funds
Social cohesion as a topic, in recent years, was introduced in the context of the EU Structural Funds (funding, priorities, application process etc.). In the regional policy of the EU, Latvia is perceived as a single region, and one of the horizontal strategic aims is to use the support of the EU structural funds to reduce disadvantages among different territorial parts. Although the priorities of the Cohesion Fund are transport and the environment, other EU Structural Funds address many social cohesion issues. A study of how EU funds and the Cohesion Fund impact on Latvia's macroeconomics shows that the total contribution of the EU funds in 2004–2006 for the development of the national economy was very positive, ensuring stable and significant GDP growth. Initially – in 2004 and 2005 – this impact was comparatively small, but in 2006 and 2007 it amounted to almost 3% of GDP.
The study on "The implication of culture in the national economy and the use of EU structural funds for cultural needs" (Baltic Project Consulting, 2006, available in Latvian) shows that, in the 2004-2006 programming period, the total available support under the Structural Funds for the sector was 15.5 million LVL (approx. 22.1 million EUR), which is equivalent to almost 17% from the available state budget. Hence, the funding available for culture under the structural funds regime is significant for the development of the sector, although it will not have a significant impact on the macroeconomic indicators of Latvia. The authors of the Study on the contribution of culture to local and regional development – Evidence from the Structural Funds (CSES, ERICarts, 2010) indicate that in Latvia 1% of the allocated funding of the European Regional Development Fund has been dedicated to culture.
The Ministry of Culture has taken an active role in seizing opportunities offered for culture by the EU Structural funds. A Report on opportunities offered by the EU Structural Funds for culture 2007-2013 has been carried out. The following data describe the contribution of the Structural funds to culture in the year 2007-2008:
Digitalisation projects (see chapter 4.2.11) in the field of culture, many of them supported by EU Structural funds, have substantially contributed to social cohesion. One example is the digitalisation projects of public libraries all over Latvia which have offered more opportunities to local inhabitants (public access to the internet, major databases, Latvian films online etc.).
For the planning period 2007-2013, the cultural sector will have several options to apply for EU structural funds (total available funding for culture is 38.7 million EUR). Support will go to the reconstruction or building of multifunctional cultural centres in the regions, for the renovation of objects of important cultural and historical heritage and for the assistance to private owners of cultural monuments in monument conservation and in the effective use of their socio-economic potential.
Cultural activities and development in the regions
Several studies show that Riga hosts the majority of cultural activities and initiatives.
The study "Socio-economic Development Tendencies of Latvian Cities" (commissioned by The State Regional Development Agency and carried out by the Laboratory of Analytic and Strategic Studies, 2008) comprised 38 cities in Latvia analysing potential growth of the cities, their competitiveness and polycentric development possibilities. According to the study, Riga is the largest development centre in the country with the highest index of creativity. It is a creative metropolis, measured by taking into account the concentration of talent and technology (see chapter 4.2.3).
Regional development can be also measured by the number of associations of citizens. The study "Fostering cultural diversity and governance: non-governmental and private cultural initiatives" (Institute of Social and Political Studies, University of Latvia, commissioned by the Ministry of Culture, Latvia, 2008) reveals that, on average, there is 1.4 cultural associations of citizens in each rural municipality, while in Riga – about 200. Approximately 29% of cities and rural municipalities host no cultural associations of citizens.
The availability of cultural activities in the regions was analysed in the study Accessibility of culture in the regions (Institute of Baltic Social Sciences, 2007) and Culture Consumption (see chapter 8.2.1). In comparison to the rest of the country, inhabitants of Riga are more active in attending professional cultural activities; reasons given are as follows: there are more cultural and entertainment activities in Riga; inhabitants in the capital have higher income levels, thus can afford to pay for cultural products) and higher education (have more interest in professional art).
The findings of the study on Culture Consumption (2008) show that a significant part of the Latvian population does not have access to cultural events in their neighbourhood. In 2007, about 69% of the respondents were satisfied with the choice of and access to culture events, while in 2008 – only 60% responded positively. 40% of the respondents mentioned that the major obstacle was high prices; 19% considered the location and means to access it may be regarded as a barrier to attend cultural events.
The study Culture Consumption (2007) analyses how much people are willing to spend on cultural activities per month. Riga inhabitants spend LVL 14.90 (21.32 EUR); inhabitants outside Riga less: those living in the regions of Zemgale, Kurzeme and Latgale - approximately LVL 13 (18.6 EUR), while in Vidzeme - only LVL 9.60 (13.74 EUR). The study also draws a conclusion that there is an evident hierarchy of social status in Latvia; individuals choose the type of cultural activities and products depending on their social status.
Also, data of the Central Statistical Bureau about household expenditure clearly indicate that Riga inhabitants spend more money for recreation and culture than inhabitants in other regions.
Figure 3: Composition and structure of consumption expenditure by region, average per household member per months (LVL), recreation and culture, 2003-2010
Source: Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.
In contrast to lower culture consumption and spending for culture and recreation in regions, participation in cultural activities and amateur art is higher in rural areas than in the cities. In the cities, 1.5% of the total number of inhabitants participated in amateur art groups in cultural centres, while in towns it was 4.9% and in the countryside – 4%.
Figure 4: Participants in amateur art groups in cultural centres, % of total number of inhabitants, 2010
Source: Ministry of Culture, Central Statistical Bureau, 2011.
Support to cultural initiatives in the regions
The State Culture Capital Foundation has several programmes financing cultural activities and facilitating accessibility of culture in the regions. Information about the years 2007- 2010 follows:
Main actors in the field